Our favorite music and movies to celebrate the holidays

By , Dec 22, 2015

holidays music movies

As the holidays approach, we wanted to share with you some of our favorite holiday traditions. In addition to guzzling eggnog and mixing up hot toddies, we like to settle in with our families, watching classic Christmas movies and spinning our top choices for hall-decking tunes.

Hopefully, these recommendations will spark inspiration for you and give you something to fill the cold winter nights with friends and family as you celebrate the holiday season. Feel free to let us know what your favorites are so other iDB readers (and us, too) can add them to our yearly traditions.

Christmas Movies

Die Hard

die-hard

For a long time, I wouldn’t admit that Die Hard was a Christmas movie. To me, if there wasn’t singing, snow, and some kind of trouble for Santa, it didn’t count. I have been convinced that it has a holiday theme, even if it is overshadowed by all the killing. Now, it’s a holiday favorite that my family watches every year. New York policeman John McClane flies across the country to Los Angeles to attempt to rekindle his marriage for Christmas. Unfortunately, an international group of thieves have different plans for McClane’s wife’s work Christmas party. You can rent this movie on iTunes in HD for $3.99 or buy it in HD for $14.99. You can also get it on Netflix’s DVD plan.

Elf

Elf

Only a dozen years ago, Will Ferrell won our hearts as an oversized elf in the big city. This movie became a Christmas classic faster than it takes for fruitcake to go bad. What would you do if an adult man in tights and pointed shoes showed up to tell you he is your biological son and proceeded to eat you out of all the sugar in your house, and puts maple syrup on spaghetti? Well, Buddy’s real dad doesn’t think it’s very funny but the holiday spirit is infectious, especially when your son is an elf. You can rent this movie on iTunes in HD for $3.99 or buy it in HD for $9.99. You can also get it on Netflix’s DVD plan.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Christmas Vacation

It would be hard to find someone that hasn’t followed the hilarious antics of the Griswold family vacations. They’ve trekked across country to visit Wally World, flown across the ocean to see the wonders of Europe, and in this Christmas themed adventure, the extended family brings the vacation to them. Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse for poor old Clark, it does. Then, it gets even worse. Then, it gets comically worse. Oh, and we can’t forget the yuppie next-door neighbors, Todd and Margo Chester. They almost have it worse than Clark because they don’t even like Christmas. You can rent this movie on iTunes in HD for $3.99 or buy it in HD for $9.99. You can also get it on Netflix’s DVD plan.

A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story

Jean Shepherd is the Norman Rockwell of storytelling and one of his most beloved classic tales of middleclass America was perfectly captured in the 1983 hit movie starring a young Peter Billingsley as Ralphie, the kid who wanted nothing more for Christmas than a Red Ryder carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle. Oh the things one will do to get Santa to listen. Although the story revolves around the eye-shooting-out BB gun, this holiday favorite has plenty of relatable humor. For example, getting your mouth washed out with soap for cussing, or having the neighbor dogs eat your Christmas dinner, or beating the snot out of the school bully because you just can’t take it anymore. You can rent this movie on iTunes in HD for $3.99 or buy it in HD for $9.99. You can also get it on Netflix’s DVD plan.

Home Alone

home-alone

There is nothing cooler for an eight-year-old than to be left alone while the entire family goes out of town. You can eat what you want, stay up late, sleep in your pajamas, and lounge around the house with no responsibilities. Kevin McCallister’s Christmas vacation could not be any better. That is until he discovers a couple of inept invaders trying to break into his house. With only his wits and some cans of house paint, Kevin manages to thwart the dumbest robbers in the world. But, he also realizes that being home alone on Christmas isn’t as fun as he thought. Family is what makes the season bright. You can rent this movie on iTunes in HD for $3.99 or buy it in HD for $14.99.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE, Onni Tommila, 2010. ©Oscilloscope

Just a half-a-decade ago, this little R-rated holiday gem landed in the US. Thanks to its charming innocence and dark gritty visuals, it became an immediate hit in my household. If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s the story of a young boy faced with the inevitability of growing up. It is set in the freezing outland of northern Finland where young Pietari discovers that Santa Claus is not the red-cheeked, round-bellied jolly fellow that loves to hand out presents. With everyone around him telling Pietari that there is no such thing as Santa, he knows the true story of Christmas and the horrors that go along with it. It is subtitled. So, keep in mind that you’ll have to read while watching it. You can rent this movie on iTunes in HD for $4.99 or buy it in HD for $12.99. You can also stream it on Hulu Plus.

Christmas Music

Christmas Eve and Other Stories by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Christmas Eve and Other Stories

This 60-piece band has made a name for itself for combining the beauty of a rich orchestra with the shredding licks of progressive rock. In 1996, TSO came out with the first title of its holiday themed Christmas trilogy, “Christmas Even and Other Stories.” The unique discourse of the ripping guitar leads set against violins, cellos, French horns, and a huge background choir made the traditional holiday classics stand out in the crowd. Although the group went on to make more than a half-dozen more albums, this one is still a fan favorite thanks to its most popular track, ” Christmas / Sarajevo 12/24.” It is available on iTunes for $12.99 or Amazon for as low as $8.99. You can also stream it in Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and more.

Christmas with the Rat Pack by The Rat Pack

Christmas with the Rat Pack

Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis Jr. fancied themselves a crew of friendly ne’er do wells called “The Rat Pack.” They made movies together, appeared on stage together, and later the three singers of the group began making music together. One of their biggest hits was this holiday album. Martin, Sinatra, and Davis each take a shot at jazzing up a dozen-and-a-half Christmas favorites. If you are tired of the stiffness of Bing Crosby and Andy Williams, these cocktail-swilling gentlemen will give you something to sing about, and you might look just as good in your custom tuxedo, too. It is available on iTunes for $5.99 or Amazon for $6.50. You can also stream it in Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and more.

The Christmas Collection by Frank Sinatra

Christmas Collection

Frank Sinatra and Christmas music practically go hand in hand. Most of those buttery-voiced crooning tunes you hear around the Holiday season come from Ol’ Blue Eyes. It can be overwhelming trying to pick just one album of his. This 18-track collection came out in 2004 and covers music he recorded between 1957 and 1991. It offers the definitive compilation of Sinatra’s entire Christmas discography. With classics like “White Christmas” and “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” your grandparents, parents, and spouse will all approve of your taste in music. It is available on iTunes for $7.99 or Amazon for $3.50. You can also stream it in Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and more.

A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector

Phil Spector Christmas

In 1963, Phil Spector gathered together all of his favorite female singing groups, including the Ronettes, the Crystals, and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, and recorded and produced his famously iconic sound of about a dozen Christmas hits and one original written especially for the album that made Darlene Love a singing sensation. Although it didn’t get much attention when it first released, it is now considered a classic album along with the likes of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra’s holiday favorites. If you like the meticulously produced 1960s pop sound of Phil Spector, you’ll dig the style and sound of this holiday hit. You can buy it on iTunes for $7.99 or Amazon for as low as $6.99. You can also stream it in Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Prime, and more.

A Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi

A Charlie Brown Christmas

The Charlie Brown Christmas special is a huge hit around my household and the soundtrack is probably more iconic than the television special itself. It was written and recorded by jazz composer Vince Guaraldi with some help from a few friends. The familiar piano styling of Guaraldi can be heard on every track, most famously, “Linus and Lucy.” the album also includes children’s choir remakes of religious holiday classics like “Heark, The Herald Angles Sing” and “What Child is This.” However, the songs are composed in such a way that the decades-old tunes have a fresh and interesting interpretation. It is available on iTunes for $9.99 or Amazon for as low as $6.99. You can also stream it in Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Prime, and more.

The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album

The Beach Boys Christmas Album

Growing up in California, my holiday season isn’t complete without sand and sea and a bit of the Beach Boys. The surf-pop band produced their own hit Christmas album in 1964 and it still holds up today. Ironically, rumor has it that the only reason this album exists is because Phil Spector kicked Brian Wilson off his Christmas album because he wasn’t good enough at playing piano. Luckily, Little Saint Nick, Santa’s Beard, and Merry Christmas, Baby, were radio hits and we got a couple of new holiday classics to add to our favorites. You can buy it on iTunes for $7.99 or Amazon for as low as $5.99. You can also stream it in Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and more.

Now you know what our holiday favorite movies and albums are. What are the classics that you turn to every year? Let us know in the comments section.

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  • Xee

    Thanks – Sinatra / Rat Pack is always a must.

  • Marcus

    Elf (Will Ferrell) & National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Chevy Chase) are both awesome.

  • Dennis Cimmino

    So how are these music and movies to celebrate the “HolidayS?” The only holiday mentioned is Christmas.