The Vandersluys Christmas Music Canon

This Vandersluys household has a semi-closed canon of Christmas music.  Here are our favourites, in order of play time:

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas – The Vince Gauraldi Trio

This is the hands-down winner. Some days the first thing we do when we get up is shuffle over to the stereo and press “play” (A Charlie Brown Christmas already being in the cd-player). When I remember, I will set the stereo to “repeat all”, such that the soundtrack will play indefinitely.  The trio’s warm, smooth jazz really marks Christmas (in the sense of “the holiday season”) for us.

2. Christmas – Bruce Cockburn

Bruce Cockburn is one of a handful of artists whom Dixie and I wholeheartedly agree on, and this is a Cockburn classic. It combines sacred music with artistic skill. He takes sacred Christmas standards and puts his own stamp on them. It’s a quality album.

I think it’s fair to say that there is a wide gap, in terms of air-play, between the first two and what follows. But don’t let that fool you, as they are all quality albums

3. Feast of Seasons – Steve Bell

For similar reasons as the Cockburn album, though Steve Bell includes original material as well.

4. Do You Hear…: Christmas with Heather, Cookie and Raylene Rankin (of the Rankin Family)

The opening song–“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”–is what does it for me, but the rest of the album is top-notch as well.  Lots of tight harmonies. It’s Christmas with an East Coast Gaelic twist.

5. A Prairie Home ChristmasGarrison Keillor (and the whole Prairie Home Companion gang)

This one was added to the canon last Christmas. Warm, funny, sometimes sacred. A mix of carols, humourous songs, and comedy sketches on 2 CDs. Our kids particularly enjoy the sound-effects version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.

Honourable mentions:

• Child – Jane Siberry.  Dixie is a huge Jane Siberry fan. I have mixed feelings. She has moments of brilliance musical beauty and moments of eye-raising oddness. At any rate, this is a 2-disc live Christmas album.

Confession: the live version of her song “Hockey”, which is on this album, once made me cry.

Christmas with James Last – James Last

For purely nostalgic reasons. It gets nothing but eye-rolls and mockery from Dixie, but I better make sure the record gets some airtime this year. Maybe I should download it from

6 thoughts on “The Vandersluys Christmas Music Canon

  1. Maureen

    Interesting list and now you’ve made me think of my own “must play” Christmas albums. I know I will miss several, but Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” album is nostalgic for me and is a must play; Take 6 “He Is Christmas” must be played; Bryan Duncan “Christmas Is Jesus” is starting to wear thin/not quite as fresh anymore, but has some tasty moments for me interspersed throughout. I always purchase a new Christmas cd every year and like the freshness of new music (can’t help it, it’s my nature), but these are a few classics that are becoming bittersweet in their memory. AND, let’s not forget to play “Handel’s Messiah”!!! Sing along, everyone! Especially the Ah-men’s!!!

  2. Marc

    I completely forgot about Bing Crosby! We usually play that one as well (but not often), but this year our Christmas CDs were scattered and I’m not sure I know where it is.

  3. Rick Wadholm Jr

    So what you are saying by your comments is that it isn’t a “closed canon” 😉 (I know your intro said as much too). Nice. What I REALLY want to know is…what is the “original” Christmas line-up??? Sorry we won’t be doing lunch this week. I’m home ill more than likely for a few days. Hope you have a blessed week.

  4. Marc

    Rick: It’s semi-closed, by which I suppose I mean that we very carefully allow new material in. The fact that something is “Christmas music” is not good enough. 🙂

    The “original” Christmas lineup for me would include James Last and a lot of classical music.

    I forgot about the Sarah McLachlan Christmas album, which is pretty good, but I’m not sure where it is. The Barenaked Ladies’ Christmas album also has some good stuff on it, but has received mixed reviews in this household.

    Sorry, Rick. My list is fairly Canada-centric. 🙂

  5. Phil L

    I realize that some would consider it too twangy, but I have a soft spot for the old Emmy Lou Harris album “Light of the Stable”.
    However Bruce Cockburn’s Christmas album is my #1.

  6. Toni

    Isn’t Raylene that kind of synthetic fabric they used to make the sort of trousers old people always wore from? Just askin’.


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