Christmas songs hold a special place in our hearts, and some are nearly impossible to get out of our heads.
Some people claim to hate these songs; others begin playing them in July.
While holiday music can be a little hokey, even some of the best musicians and songwriters still have their favorites.
“It gets a little overdone sometimes, but there are definitely some classics out there,” said Baton Rouge native CJ Solar, a writer of country hits in Nashville who recently released his own country Christmas song, “The Only Present I Want.”
Solar expects Christmas songs to help bring a sense of normalcy to a holiday season unlike any other in memory.
“People are really going to want to have some uplifted spirits over the holidays, and I feel like Christmas music is going to make a lot of people feel a lot of feelings for this year, whether it’s sad feelings or happy feelings,” Solar said. “There’s been a lot of loss, and, hopefully, people will be able to enjoy music together.”
This year, The Advocate asked some south Louisianians in the music world to share their favorite Christmas tunes. Here are the holiday songs that mean the most to them.
“For me it’s the tradition and age of it. It’s been hundreds of years that people have performed that carol.”
David Torns, associate conductor, Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, Baton Rouge
“Gdy Śliczna Panna,” (“When The Lovely Mary”)
“I came to the United States in 1987. I actually defected from Poland. At that time, Poland was a communist country. I was a member of a very well-known and internationally recognized string quartet. So the Polish government let us go outside Poland to represent Polish culture abroad. We had a residency at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.
“The first year when you immigrate is very hard. You are alone, and the first Christmas is very hard, too, when you leave your country miles behind. Our quartet was hired to play this concert with one of the local choirs at a church in Milwaukee. They decided to do some international carols and some English carols, and they also selected this carol.
“It is difficult to describe the feelings for all of us, these young guys from Poland. We suddenly were hearing this choir sing to us this song, which was well known to us, in pretty good Polish, and we were playing with them. It was difficult to keep the tears away. Maybe because of that this song has stuck with me more than others.”
Mariusz Smolij, music director and conductor, Acadiana Symphony Orchestra, Lafayette
“Silent Night,” The Temptations
“It brings back times with my mother and sister and brother all being together having a good time and singing along. These memories are very sacred. I don’t remember that song not being there. I know it word for word and every ad lib.”
Jovin Webb, "American Idol" 2020 finalist, Baton Rouge
“Pretty Paper,” Willie Nelson
“That’s one of my go-to, nontraditional Christmas songs. It’s just a beautiful song about the meaning of Christmas. It’s more about giving than receiving. You can tell that Willie was paying attention to what was around him, and it wasn’t always a pretty picture.”
Yvette Landry, singer-songwriter, Lafayette
“Please Come Home for Christmas,” The Eagles
“I really love ‘Please Come Home for Christmas’ and decided to record and release it this holiday season. I grew up on the Eagles version, and I think this song is especially important this year.”
Laine Hardy, "American Idol" 2019 winner, Livingston
“Do You Hear What I Hear”
“I like all versions. My late mom always loved to sing Christmas songs in the car, and every time I hear this one, I have very vivid memories of her singing every word. It’s my ultimate Christmas nostalgia go-to tune that goes along with everything else I love about this special time of year: remembering my mom.”
Michelle Southern, production director and on-air personality, Eagle 98.1, Baton Rouge
“All I Want for Christmas Is You,” Mariah Carey
“Hands down, Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ is the most requested Christmas song every year."
Bobby Novosad, morning show personality and DJ, KSMB-FM 94.5, Lafayette
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”
“I grew up in Virginia originally. I love Louisiana, but I miss the seasons we experienced there. There is nothing like a white Christmas, and we would often get that there. I grew up on a farm, and I have a real nostalgia for that. The last part of it, ‘I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams,’ I don’t always get to be there for Christmas. I always have those great memories of home, and I think there is something very touching to that.”
Leanne Clement, general director, Opera Louisiane, Baton Rouge
“O Holy Night”
“There is something about the music that brings me to tears every time I hear it. I just think it’s a really beautiful song. There is something very peaceful and quiet and the melody is almost perfect. My dad is an Episcopal priest. When we were growing up, the Christmas service and Christmas Eve service were a really major part of our holidays, preparing and picking the songs and the events themselves. ‘Oh Holy Night’ was always one of the songs he chose for midnight Mass because he knew I loved it.”
Jenny Ballard, managing artistic director, Theatre Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Kacey Musgraves
“I guess it’s just a very hopeful song. ‘From now on our troubles will be out of sight.’ It’s very hopeful. Nothing mind-blowing, but, especially after this year being pretty sucky, it’s nice to have some hopeful songs.”
CJ Solar, musician, songwriter, Nashville (Baton Rouge native)
“Winter Wonderland,” Johnny Mathis
“I’ve listened to this my whole life. I can’t remember a time when this wasn’t played every Christmas — at my parents’ house, when I went off on my own I got a copy, and when CDs came out, I bought it on CD. Johnny Mathis means Christmas to me.”
Chris Maxwell, owner, Red Dragon Listening Room, Baton Rouge
"Rudolph," "Frosty," "The Grinch"
“The songs associated with the animated shows we'd watch each year, like ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,’ ‘Frosty the Snowman’ and ‘You're A Mean One, Mister Grinch’ all bring back a lot of happy memories. We'd always watch those shows while decorating the tree, wrapping it with strung-together popcorn and covering it in tinsel. My parents would sing Rudolph and the kids would yell out the add-ons — ‘Like a lightbulb!’ ”
Douglas Gay, founder, Baton Rouge Music Studios, Baton Rouge