1. A Charlie Brown Christmas, Vince Guaraldi Trio
Not only the greatest cool jazz holiday album of all time on its own merit, but hearing these songs always brings back a flood of happy childhood memories. We hesitate to call anything an essential, but to us, it almost isn't Christmas without this album.
2. The Andy Williams Christmas Album
It's possible that this crosses over into campiness, and a couple of the later tracks are sort of forgettable. But we're celebrating the birth of Jesus, so we might as well do it with the Jesus of Cool, Andy Williams. This is worth buying simply on the merits of his iconic recordings of "Happy Holidays" and "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year".
3. The Reindeer Room Volume II: A Christmas Chillout
There are literally dozens of lounge/downtempo Christmas compilations, but this is the one we keep putting on. In addition to 15 tracks of chilled-out goodness, you also get a bonus DVD of the entire album playing over video of a crackling fireplace. What better backdrop to lounging with friends or opening gifts on Christmas morning?