While everyone has their own idea of when the holiday season begins, nobody can deny that turning up the Christmas classics too soon will lead to burnout before the 12 days of Christmas even begin. But that doesn’t stop the nostalgia for hot cocoa and tree decorating from creeping in early. This playlist brings the holiday vibes — warmth, old-fashioned crooning and even some jingle bells — without any actual commitment to Christmas, making it the perfectly acceptable musical segue into the holiday season before December rolls around.
“Linus and Lucy” by Vince Guaraldi Trio
Featured in the Charlie Brown television specials, this instrumental piece elicits nostalgia for holiday traditions without bringing pesky Christmas lyrics into the mix.
“Always Be My Baby” by Mariah Carey
As the unofficial queen of Christmas music, Mariah Carey is an essential addition to any holiday-adjacent playlist. This uplifting hit will raise anyone’s spirits by the end of the first “doo-doo-doo-doo-dah,” much like Carey’s other ubiquitous hit “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”
“One Last Song” by Sam Smith
The hopeful chime of a chorus behind Smith gives this song that quintessential holiday feeling. Smith’s emotional tone and sing-along friendly chorus doubles down on the joy.
“Endless Love” by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross
Fans of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “O Holy Night” should find solace in this slow and emotional classic of the same vein. Let the harmonies wrap you in peace and joy.
“Love Me Like You – Christmas Mix” by Little Mix
This upbeat pop tune ushers in fun reminiscent of modern holiday classics such as as Ariana Grande’s “Santa Tell Me” and Leona Lewis’s “One More Sleep.” Though this particular mix technically has the word “Christmas” in the title, the song’s lyrics have nothing to do with the holiday — the remix only adds jingle bells to amp up its already jolly essence. Instead of undeniably festive “fa-la-las,” this song brings in “sha-la-la-las,” solidifying it as the perfect song to fill the jingle-bell-shaped void in your heart without starting the season too early.
“What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
This song’s beautiful and simple message captures the essence of the holiday season — appreciating the little moments that are worth celebrating.
“Like I’m Gonna Lose You (feat. John Legend)” by Meghan Trainor and John Legend
This song just has the it-factor of Christmas music — inexplicable warmth. Its emphasis on enjoying every moment with the person, or people, you love is a good lesson to remember when both moving into the holiday season and navigating everyday life.
“Crying in the Chapel” by The Orioles
From the second this song begins, church bells usher in the holiday spirit. True to its chapel theme, it may also remind religious listeners of holiday service. A slow and old-fashioned tune, this song has a feeling deeply reminiscent of the perennial classics featured on the radio every December.
“Oh! Darling” by The Beatles
Its striking similarity to The Eagles’ version of “Please Come Home for Christmas” gives this Beatles classic major holiday vibes. It’s the perfect way to bring rock into your playlist even when it’s too soon to rock around the Christmas tree.
“Over The Rainbow” by Judy Garland
Alongside the hope delivered in its message, the old-fashioned vocal quality of this 1939 release gives it a warmth similar to that of the antiquated Christmas classics that take over retail stores every holiday season.
“I’ll Be There” by The Jackson 5
The supportive message from the lyrics of this Jackson 5 hit — “Let me fill your heart with joy and laughter / togetherness, well, that’s all I’m after” — shares the same theme of many sappy Christmas specials. Even without the lyrics, its melody and harmonies are sure to uplift.
“For Once In My Life” by Stevie Wonder
With the uncanny ability to instantly brighten a mood, this song is the perfect choice to provide the same serotonin that sleigh bells bring in December.