Few things are more grating than hearing a bad Christmas or holiday song. We all have ones that make us anything but cheery and reaching for the radio dial or earplugs faster than Yukon Cornelius can shout “Bumbles Bounce!” Some of mine include Paul McCartney’s “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” and anything that Mariah Carey sings. Rather than focus on the cringe-inducing ditties out there, I’ll instead share a collection of holidays songs that I never tire of. Some might ring a bell, others not so much, but they’ve all made the cut on this music snob’s list because they resonate with me on several levels.

While you consider these tunes, may you also pause to think about what your favorite ones are. Maybe some are on your parents’ old albums or a compilation made by a friend several years ago, or maybe they have slid into your life on their own accord. Trust me, the good ones are out there. Here are 10 of mine.

“A Silent Night With You,” Tori Amos

Album: “Midwinter Graces,” 2009

Why I love it: This is an original tune by Amos that expresses the simple wish to spend a quiet night with the one you love, set against a lush backdrop of strings and piano: “The radio plays my holiday faves/ It takes me back to when your love was new/ Lost in my daze, you slip past say/ Girl, take my hand, see, nothing has changed.”

“A Fairytale of New York,” The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl

Album: Released as a single, 1987

Why I love it: This is perhaps my favorite Christmas song. The Pogues singer Shane MacGowan duets with the late Kirsty MacColl in a song that is many things all at once: sweet, salty, nostalgic, folksy and full of both love and playful disdain. Here’s the first two lines: “It was Christmas eve, babe, in the drunk tank/ An old man said to me, ‘won’t see another one.’ ” Classic.

“Two Hours to Maine,” Carol Noonan

Album: “Carol Noonan Christmas,” 2003

Why I love it: Honestly, I could devote this entire list to Carol Noonan. She’s one of my absolute favorite singers, and the beloved Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield is the venue she opened. Noonan has released two Christmas CDs, “Carol Noonan Christmas” and “This Time Next Year.” Both feature classics and originals, and it was a difficult decision to narrow it down to my favorite. At the moment, though, it’s the original “Two Hours to Maine.” The songs tells of a long journey home on Christmas Eve and the relief of finally getting there: “Wake up the dogs and turn on the light/ Kiss you hello and kiss you goodnight/ Stoke up the fire and sift through the mail/ A tall glass of wine when all words fail, all words fail.”

“7 O’Clock News/Silent Night,” Simon & Garfunkel

Album: “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme,” 1966
Why I love it: The song is a quiet version of “Silent Night” juxtaposed with a newscast recorded by DJ Charlie O’Donnell. While Paul and Art sing about sleeping in heavenly peace, the news broadcast speaks of Vietnam War protest, the death of comedian Lenny Bruce, civil rights disputes, a murder indictment and other less serious business. The merging of the song and the spoken words are both beautiful and chilling.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Judy Garland

Album: From the 1944 MGM musical “Meet Me in St. Louis,” written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane

Why I love it: Although it has since been recorded by countless other singers, Judy Garland owns this song. I get emotional every time I hear it. “Someday soon, we all will be together/ If the fates allow/ Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow/ So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”

“River,” Joni Mitchell

Album: Blue, 1971

Why I love it: Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” album is in my top 10 list of favorites. Every song is a poetic offering of Mitchell’s songwriting and vocals and “River” is no exception. Though this is not an “official” Christmas song, many of us have adopted it as such, thanks in part to the opening line: “It’s coming on Christmas/ They’re cutting down trees/ They’re putting up reindeer/ And singing songs of joy and peace/ Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on.”

“The Secret of Christmas,” Ella Fitzgerald

Album: “Have Yourself a Jazzy Little Christmas” (various artists), 1989.

Why I love it: Let’s face it, every single Christmas song that Ella Fitzgerald sings is a favorite one because, well, it’s Ella Fitzgerald. But my favorite is the lesser known “The Secret of Christmas.” It was originally written for Bing Crosby by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Vanheusen, but it’s the Fitzgerald version that really does it for me. Why? Because of its simple yet powerful message: “The little gift you send on Christmas Day/ Will not bring back the friend you’ve turned away/ So may I suggest, the secret of Christmas/ It’s not the things you do at Christmastime/ But the Christmas things you do, all year through.” You said it, Ella.

“Night. Part One: Snow,” George Winston

Album: “December, 1982”
Why I love it: If you’re unfamiliar with George Winston, he’s a pianist with a rich body of work that includes the 1982 album “December,” which I fell in love with in the early ’90s. The entire album leaves me an emotional puddle, especially “Snow.” The piece is pure beauty and tenderness, and it packs a bittersweet punch as it often makes me pine for Christmases of long ago and for some of the people I’ve lost over the years.

“Are You Burning, Little Candle (a love song to children),” Jane Siberry

Album: “CHILD: Music for the Holidays,” 1997

Why I love it: Because Canadian singer-songwriter Jane Siberry is sacred to me. Her songs, her voice, all of it. “Are You Burning, Little Candle” is a gorgeous, hopeful song about the innocence of childhood with a spiritual leaning. “Are you burning little candle?/ High upon the Christmas tree/ Symbol of a new beginning/ Faith and hope and sweet release.”

“The 12 Days of Christmas,” John Denver and the Muppets

Album: “A Christmas Together,” 1979

Why I love it: I have my reasons. They go something like this: John Denver, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Robin the Frog, Miss Piggy, Scooter, Lew Zealand, Rowlf the Dog, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, Statler and Waldorf Beauregard, and Kermit the Frog.

Aimsel Ponti’s column, “Face the Music,” appears in the Press Herald every Thursday as part of the Maine Today Entertainment Magazine.

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