In a trend that might have been started by a certain John Lewis Christmas advert, gentle songs and delicate ballads seem the perfect way to capture Christmas. Forget boisterous horn sections and exuberant shouting; here we celebrate some of the best in peaceful, seasonal songs. Play these relaxing acoustic Christmas songs while present wrapping or festive baking to ease yourself into the Christmas spirit. If your present-wrapping skills are anything like ours, these calming songs might be the only thing to get you through the ordeal!
1. Christmas Is All Around – Sleeping At Last
The song Billy Mack hates in Love Actually is given new life by Sleeping At Last. Stripped of the cheesy production value, the folky vocals radiate with a message warm in its simplicity.
2. Santa Baby – Daniela Andrade
Covering a festive classic, Daniela Andrade’s quiet, husky vocals pair perfectly with the gentle electric strumming. You feel that you could be listening to it in a dimly lit bar at the end of a December night; glass in hand, fairylights in the corner of your eye.
3. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – She & Him
‘A Very She & Him Christmas’ has become a yuletide classic, and this rendition is one of the album’s shining points. Zooey Deschanel’s voice glides over the easy instrumentation; her warm, full-bodied vocals reinforcing the lyrics’ festive sentiment.
4. Goodbye England (Covered In Snow) – Laura Marling
Laura Marling never fails to deliver a multi-layered narrative, and this wintry song is no exception. The singer fears the end of a relationship while simultaneously bidding ‘goodbye to old England’, mingling memories of it ‘covered in snow’ with the sight of her lover in red scarf, jacket and coat. Nostalgic and bittersweet.
5. A Thousand Miles (Live Acoustic) – Vanessa Carlton
‘A Thousand Miles,’ we hear you say, ‘since when is that a Christmas song?’ The title may not cause Christmas to spring to mind, but this acoustic version is as Christmassy as they come. Included on the festive EP ‘Hear The Bells’, Carlton’s folky vocals merge with acoustic strumming and gentle violin strains.
6. White Winter Hymnal – Fleet Foxes
One of the critics’ favourites from 2008, this wintry single is ever-popular nearly 10 years later. As in Laura Marling’s case, we’ve got mention of red scarves and snow – here, beautifully matched with a chorus of voices. As per the title, it’s hymnal in effect.
7. Auld Lang Syne – Beta Radio
There’ve been plenty of covers of this poem-turned-traditional-folk-song (Elvis, The Beach Boys, Mariah Carey), but this recent rendition has a homely, intimate feel to it. Built on voices, clapping, banjo twanging and tambourine, it’s warm, upbeat, and unaffected.
8. Merry Christmas Everyone – Lucy Rose
A mellow, stripped-back version of Shaky’s Christmas classic. Lucy Rose’s voice is silken sincerity encapsulated, gently coaxing the listener into hearing the lyrics of this hoary old standard as though for the first time.
9. White Christmas – Katy Perry
Katy Perry gives the vibe of the chanteuse in her stripped-back cover of this Christmas classic. Like celebrity doppelgänger Deschanel’s, her husky vocals work perfectly to create a laid-back, fireside atmosphere.
10. White Christmas – Bright Eyes
An even more laid-back rendition, the Bright Eyes cover is short and sweet. Strings squeak as the chords change, and the angelic, breathy vocals are hushed throughout.
11. Christmas Eve, I’m Yours – Trella
This little-known gem is a gorgeously romantic acoustic piece. With whimsical lyrics and breathtaking harmonies, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a cold winter’s night.
12. Sweet Child O’ Mine – Taken By Trees
Taken By Trees’ haunting take on Guns N’ Roses’ seminal song switches that riff from the guitar to the piano, pushing Swedish singer Victoria Bergsman’s ethereal vocals to the fore. Slash’s guitar solo is transformed into a blissful refrain, initially teased out on acoustic guitar, and then joined by choral backing vocals for an exultant climax to the song. The song was featured on a John Lewis Christmas ad back in 2009 that focused on the innocent joy children feel at Christmas (and how you can regain that feeling by purchasing slippers and coffee-makers).
13. Christmas Waltz – Mindy Gledhill
Easy and upbeat, this rendition champions the whimsy of the ‘Christmas Waltz’. Mindy Gledhill’s sugar-sweet vocals are perfectly matched with the carefree feel of this Christmas standard.
14. Ave Maria – Christina Perri
It takes a brave singer to perform a song famously covered by Beyoncé and Céline Dion, as well as some the world’s greatest sopranos, but Perri’s operatic vocals put her own stamp on it. Joined only by violin and acoustic guitar, the song is delicately festive.
15. The Christmas Song – Danika Holmes (feat. Jeb Hart)
One of the most popular Christmas songs ever recorded, The Christmas Song was actually conceived during a heatwave when its writers, Robert Wells and Mel Tormé, attempted to “stay cool by thinking cool”. By conjuring the most wintery of imagery, they hoped to make the stifling heat more bearable. Whilst they may not have succeeded in reducing their temperatures, they did create this most enduring of songs. Danika Holmes and Jeb Hart’s mellifluous vocals and intricate acoustic guitar picking combine to add a satisfying country lilt to an all-time favourite.
16. Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want – Slow Moving Millie
Another acoustic cover popularised thanks to its inclusion in a John Lewis Christmas campaign. A beautiful version of a beautiful song that illuminates the realities of Christmas, not just the fairytale. What could be seen as a superficial plea for better presents, is on a deeper level reflective of the yearning for connection felt by many at this time of year.
17. Walking in the Air – Mimicking Birds
‘The Snowman’ means Christmas, as do the sweeping vocals of Aled Jones in ‘Walking in the Air’. This rendition is less grand, but similarly ethereal. And if you thought a slightly rocky edge would sound misplaced in this Christmas song, let this cover change your mind.
18. Half The World Away – Aurora
Yet another acoustic cover featured in a John Lewis ad, this time of an original song that was predominantly acoustic itself. Indelibly associated with Christmas thanks to the aforementioned advert and the song’s use as the theme tune for beloved sit-com The Royle Family, which was famed for it’s bittersweet Christmas specials.
19. No Christmas For Me – Zee Avi
Zee Avi was shocked when this ‘simple ditty’ became an online hit. Since then, it’s shared space on a Christmas album with Jack Johnson, and has joined the ranks of the many songs before it about missing someone on Christmas. Think ‘Blue Christmas’ and ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’, but wait until the end for a Christmassy twist.
20. Let It Snow – She & Him
Yes, this is the second time She & Him have appeared in this list, but the duo’s cover of ‘Let It Snow’ is too good not to include. Zooey Deschanel’s vocals really were made for Christmas.
21. Frosty the Snowman – Fiona Apple
Apple’s smoky vocals mesh perfectly with satisfyingly twangy acoustic guitar in this old-time blues inspired version of Frosty The Snowman that sounds simultaneously nostalgic and fresh.
22. Last Christmas – Halloran and Kate
No list of Christmas songs would be complete without this Wham classic. Escape the tumult of a hectic Christmas morning for a few blissful moments with Halloran and Kate’s laid-back acoustic interpretation.
23. Blue Christmas – Old Sea Brigade
While not technically acoustic (there’s a touch of mellow electric guitar near the end), this mournful cover by Nashville-based singer-songwriter Ben Cramer (aka Old Sea Brigade) goes nicely with a wistful stare out the window, wondering if you’ll ever see a white Christmas.
24. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson infuses the story of the rosy-nosed reindeer with his trademark upbeat surfer style. You can just imagine listening to this while lazing around a camp fire on a beach in a Hawaii.
25. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Sam Smith
We end this list with man-of-the-moment Sam Smith’s melodic cover of this quintessential Christmas song. Raw and heartfelt, Sam sings this one as if he wrote it himself.
In the Christmas spirit yet? We hope you enjoyed listening to these laid-back seasonal favourites – follow our Spotify playlist to find them all in one place! And if you’ve been inspired to replicate the easygoing charm of these classics, head on over to our award-winning acoustic and folk bands for hire. Merry Christmas!