Three ingredients make up the 98% of a perfect Christmas party : peppermint schnapps, twinkling strings of lights, and the perfect set of holiday tunes (the other 2% is in the milk you’re serving with Santa cookies). Today we are going to be focusing on the jingliest, belliest item on that list.

With virtually limitless options for our perusal, making the perfect playlist is just about as easy as peeling a turtle. Take this opportunity to learn from your dozens of sushi-induced stomach aches trying to build the perfect platter: it is best to stick to a tried and true formula (with a little bit of boldness here and there) when it comes to crafting your beats list.

So what goes into a decision like this? We could debate criteria until the cows come home, the cows die, we cook the cows, and then eat them, OR you can accept, like we have, that the following three considerations are most important. We could lie and tell you that science backs us up, but Christmas isn’t about science, it’s about faith, so just go with us on this one, ok?

Part One: Rhythm

Anyone who is anyone who is not Barney Stinson will tell you that a playlist needs to build. Like a gentle ocean, it rises and falls with the tide. Mess up this part of the playlist and your guests might be whipped out by the riptide where they will be mauled by sharks in C minor. The metaphor kind of breaks apart at the end there, but you get the idea.

A good playlist starts strong, but not too strong. No one ever fondly remembered a night that kicked off with Darude’s Sandstorm. This is about easing your party into the mood with a song that says, “It’s about to get all kinds of Yule up in here.” Think a song like ‘Christmas Wrapping’ by the Waitresses in Chris’ pop playlist.

 

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From there, the tracks need to crescendo. You can remember this with an easy memory trick. Just remember that crescendo is a music term and you’re making a damn music playlist so you better know some of the terminology or you’re going to look like a dunce-aholic at the party. If you don’t know what it means, imagine a graph, because the only thing that can make Christmas even more fun is graphs. The graph is shaped like an igloo because winter. You want to follow that graph, but skew for peak energy at about 70-80% of your expected party length. Remember, geometry is at the heart of fun.

That captures the third part of rhythm, the fall. Eventually, your guests will want to leave and find a bed. It is your duty as DJ to ensure that they don’t hit the sheets with their heart still beating at 210 BPM. If they do, those are probably hospital sheets and you’ve done a terrible thing. This is not the time for post-industrial Christmas rave music. The best playlist-enders come down easy and leave you with a feeling of satisfaction and joy.

Part Two: Style

While the concept of rhythm in a playlist is a tried and true staple, style is where you get to flex that creative muscle (you know, that one right next to the funny bone and the artsy tendon). Christmas Music is sometimes labelled a genre in itself, but the breadth of Christmas Music is mind-boggling. From the instant classic “Christmas in Hollis” to lesser known ballads like “White Christmas,” Christmas songs can be found in almost every style of music.

Keep in mind that the style you typically like almost certainly features some kind of Christmas songs, whether it’s rock, rap, jazz, classical, or electronic pan flute. Someone somewhere already did the deed, and all you need to do is find it. There’s a rule about this on the Internet that escapes us at the moment…

The trick with style is to know what your guests will like. If you like electro-jazz but your best friend likes mid-90s ska, you need to strike a common chord, like A minor. (Don’t hit children, even for a pun.). When you make your playlist, be sure to put a little something in there for all the special people in your life, or at least the ones who are free on the 17th between 8:00pm and 3:00am.

Part Three: Nostalgia

Here’s a fact. Christmas and nostalgia go hand in hand. Like Santa and Christmas, or nights around the fireplace and Christmas, or your favorite Christmas movie and Christmas, Christmas music helps you connect with Christmases past in a way that is substantially less unsettling than that giant ogre in A Muppet Christmas Carol.

The final component to that awesome lineup of wintry jams is to strum the chords of every party-goers heart with a few classics. Hit ‘em with a bit of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” or maybe “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” for a more modern group. Make them feel like a kid again, and you can guarantee that everyone will remember you as the DJ-Master of December.

Still need some inspiration? Check out The Gentleman’s Guide to Everything Christmas playlists below and give it a spin at your next holiday get together!

Ian's Playlist

Not everyone enjoys the nostalgia of the same 17 songs from the 1950’s played on repeat for the whole month of December. Sometimes you need to freshen up your holiday jams with a little bass, and some big pimpin’ – from Snoop to Kanye, the GGE Hip Hop Christmas playlist is sure to please anyone under age 35. (Warning: Some songs NSFW!)

Mike's Playlist

The holidays are a great time of the year, but they do present an unpleasant acquiescence to the normal holiday tunes for the hard rocker. Luckily, the leather jacket wearing, devil horn flashing, all around loud and heavy music makers also have some holiday cheer to spread.  Enjoy \m/

Chris' Playlist

Christmas and department stores go hand-in-hand. Just ask Clark Griswold, Buddy the Elf, and Charlie Brown in that one special where he buys gloves for the red-headed girl. My playlist evokes the feeling of being out on the town during the Christmas season with some upbeat pop and rock offerings.

Tim's Playlist

There is a reason that the song “White Christmas” is one of the most popular songs in the world. Snow and Christmas go together like ribbons and bows, candies and canes, mistles and toes. Whether you like snow or not, it’s coming. So listen to this short, snappy playlist about the magic that is snow…maybe it will warm you up a bit.

Andy's Playlist

Enjoy songs sung by men and women who were probably more drunk when they sang them than your guests will be when they listen to them, from a time when Christmas parties were known for their swing and their swank.

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