List of Acceptable Christmas Music

I’ll probably submit this to Wikipedia.

1. Sufjan Stevens, Songs for Christmas

I don’t think we give Sufjan nearly enough credit in general, but certainly we should all be bowing down on our knees when December 25 comes around.  Simply put: Sufjan saved Christmas music.  All of it.  All of the familiar carols and songs, the trite lyrics, the pat harmonies.  He redeemed them, re-invented, and glorified them.  And all it took was a banjo and some oboes.

He also wrote some great new classics from scratch:

2. Tomás Luis de Victoria, O Magnum Mysterium

3. Gian Carlo Menotti, Amahl and the Night Visitors

This is likely the best thing Menotti ever wrote.  Pieces like The Medium and The Telephone have so many silly melodramatic moments and text-setting gaffs that they just don’t hold together.  Amahl is simple and tunely, contains a musical setting of the line “This is my box. This is my box. I never travel without my box,” and always makes me cry right here:

4. In Dulci Jubilo

I love the tune, and I love the back and forth between Latin and Olde English.  I love how “show” is spelled “shew”.

5. Alfred Schnittke’s “Stille Nacht

6. John Adams’ El Niño

7. “Glory to God” by Yours Truly

You didn’t seriously think I would leave this out, did you?

8. Benjamin Britten, A Ceremony of Carols


– “Silver and Gold” as sung by Burl Ives on the original Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer soundtrack

– The Vince Guaraldi Christmas Album

– The Little Drummer Boy

– “The Eight Days of Christmas” by Destiny’s Child

Specifically unacceptable:

– Morten Lauridson, O Magnum Mysterium

– This:

– And everything it represents.

– Everything else not specifically on one of the above lists.

Am I missing anything?



I’ve had a certain fondness (weakness?) for that number ever since I composed Maurice Ravel’s own orchestration of it.


The Christmas section of Liszt’s “Christus” is quite nice and the Pastorale from Bach’s Christmas oratorio is what I grew up with. Also, Justin Bieber’s “Fa la la.”


Yeah I sort of shied away from including any of the true classical masterworks on any of these lists. No Messiah, no Nutcrackr… these pieces are beyond requiring my judgement.

A few more numbers I’d gladly add to the Acceptable list, regardless of their incarnation: Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen, Puer natus est, There is no Rose of Such Virtue.

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