Virtually every major musical artist has released a Christmas album. And even though these performers were famous before they ever cut a record with a holiday theme, some of them, such as Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby, are particularly closely associated with the songs of the season.
To determine the best holiday albums of all time, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on chart performance from Billboard, current through Nov. 19, 2022, and on certified album sales from the Recording Industry Association of America, current through mid-December. Holiday albums were ranked based on an index combining certified U.S. album sales and an inverse score wherein a week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 is worth 200 points, a week at No. 2 worth 199 points, and so on, up to a week at No. 200 worth one point. Albums must have also appeared on Billboard’s Top Holiday Albums chart to be considered. Sales data for Elvis Presley’s “Elvis’ Christmas Album” includes certified sales for all reissues of the 1957 album. (These are the most popular Elvis Presley songs.)
Among the top 10 albums on the list, seven were released in the 20th century. Out of the 40 best holiday albums of all time on our list, only six reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
Longevity is the hallmark of these LPs. George Winston’s “Dec.” peaked at No. 54 for one week in 1983, but its total time on the Billboard 200 was 178 weeks, en route to selling 3 million records. Two of Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s LPs have each spent more than 60 weeks on the Billboard 200.
On the other hand, some artists have demonstrated that you don’t need a high chart position to mark success. Barbra Streisand’s “A Christmas Album” rose to just No. 108 for two weeks in 1967 – however, it sold 5 million LPs. (See the song of the winter the year you were born.)
Many of the biggest-selling holiday albums are instrumental, and in this category, Mannheim Steamroller and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra dominate. Mannheim Steamroller, which popularized neo-classical electronic New Age music, has four albums on the list whose sale totaled 19 million. Trans-Siberian Orchestra (actually from Tampa, Fla.) is represented by three albums that have sold 7 million copies.
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