My Favorite Cowboy Christmas Songs

Victoria Bylin BlueFor the sake of this blog, I’m going use the term “cowboy” rather loosely.  That’s because one of my favorite Christmas songs is by a country artist who grew up in southern California.  He’s more likely to be seen at the beach on a surfboard than on a cattle ranch, but he looks great in a Stetson and that’s close enough for today.

I’ll tell you his name and where he ranks on my list of Cowboy Christmas songs in just a minute.  First, though, I want to say Merry Christmas to everyone reading this blog. By now, I hope you’re ready for the holidays (I’m not) and that you’re relaxing with cookies or apple cider. I’m not doing that, either.  Try as I might, I’m never early for Christmas but somehow I make it on time.  That’s one of the reasMerry Christmas cowboy horseons I like Christmas music so much. You can listen to it while you’re driving, shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating, etc..

For fun, here are my Top Five Favorite Cowboy Christmas songs.

No. 5 “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” by Gene Autry

The song itself isn’t what gets me, though it has a great story behind it. As the legend goes, Gene Autry, singing cowboy extraordinaire, recorded it in one take as the “B” side to another song on an old-style 45. The song went on to be one of the all-time favorites of kids and adults alike.

 Gene AutryWhat charms me about Rudolph is the romance in the TV special.  Here it is written in what romance writers call a “pitch” for a book:  “A young reindeer with a flawed nose must prove himself to Santa and win the heart of Clarice, the young doe who’s stolen his heart.” 

My husband likes the action in the show. Will Yukon Cornelius save the day? What about the Bumble? Will everyone escape from the Island of the Lost Toys? It’s a glorious moment when Rudolph lights up the night with his nose so bright and Santa delivers his load of toys. Things get even better when he kisses Clarice!

 No. 4. “Little Drummer Boy” by Johnny Cash 

Whatever Johnny Cash sings, there’s something raw and meaningful in his voice.  I like his version of this song a lot, but my all-time favorite was quite different. My husband and I were in church on a Sunday in December. The morning worship began with a solo drummer  marching across the stage.  The young man playing his drum that day must have been military, because his bearing was impeccable and his expression never changed. The rat-a-tat-tat of the snare drum still echoes in my mind.

 No. 3. “Mary Did You Know” by Kathy Matthea

I’m counting Kathy as a cowgirl because this is one of my favorite Christmas songs. I heard it for the first time just a few years ago. There’s something awesome and humbling about the lyrics: “Mary did you know, your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?”  Christmas is a time of healing, love and great gifts. That’s why I love this song. 

No. 2.  “O Holy Night” by Gary AllanGary+Allan

Gary is the cowboy-surfer crooner I mentioned earlier. I love his version of “O Holy Night.”  It gives me goose bumps.  It also reminds me of another time I heard this song.  I was fourteen years old and had gone to Bel Air Presbyterian Church for Christmas Eve services with a friend. Robert Goulet and his then-wife Carol Lawrence were part of the worship team. She sang, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”  Mr. Goulet did “O Holy Night. I tell you, the rafters shook with the power of his voice.  

And last . . . Drumroll please . . .

 No. 1:  “Christmas For Cowboys” as sung by John Denver.  

The song was written by Steve Weisberg in 1975 and it speaks for itself.   Here are the words:
Tall in the saddle, we spend Christmas Day, driving the cattle over snow
covered-plains.
All of the good gifts given today, ours is the sky and the wide open range.
Back in the cities they have different ways, football and eggnog and Christmas parades.
I’ll take my saddle, I’ll take the reins, It’s Christmas for cowboys wide-open
plains.
christmas cowboy scenic
A campfire for warmth as we stop for the night, the stars overhead are
Christmas tree lights.
The wind sings a hymn as we bow down to pray, It’s Christmas for cowboys,
wide-open plains.

Tall in the saddle we spend Christmas Day, driving the cattle over
snow-covered plains.
All of the good gifts given today, ours is the sky and the wide open range.
It’s Christmas for cowboys, wide open plains.

May your Christmas be filled with good cheer, beautiful skies and wide open spaces.

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Victoria Bylin is under contract with Bethany House Publishers for two inspirational contemporary romances.Prior to jumping to the present day, she wrote westerns for Harlequin Historical and Love Inspired Historical. Her books have finaled in the ACFW Carol Awards, the Rita Awards and RT Magazine’s Reviewers’ Choice Awards. She and her husband live in Lexington, Kentucky and have two grown sons. You can learn more about Vicki at www.victoriabylin.com

30 thoughts on “My Favorite Cowboy Christmas Songs”

  1. Lovely post, Victoria. That John Denver tune is a favorite of mine, too. And I fell in love with Johhny Cash at the age of five. I used to sing Fulsom Prison Blues and Ring of Fire in the car.

    Another favorite Christmas tune for me is ‘Do You See What I See’. There’s something majestic about the melody and the lyrics that puts a lump in my throat.

    We’re digging out from under a snow storm here in Nova Scotia this morning. Looks like we’re in for a white Christmas for sure. Thanks for the holiday spirit!

  2. Hi Jennie, “Do You See What I See?” is a definite favorite. My favorite version is my Johnny Mathis. I tried really hard to picture him in a cowboy hat, but alas! I just couldn’t do it. Even so, that song gives me goosebumps. I’ve heard other versions, but I like Johnny’s the best.

    Have a great day with all that snow! We got a couple of inches here in Lexington, KY. THe trees are frosted and the sky is gray. Bluegrass country looks like a b/w photograph.

  3. Your blog gives me a Christmas feeling, Vicki. I will listen to anything Johhny Cash and John Denver sing. One of the few Christmas albums I own is by Mary Chapin Carpenter, called “Come darkness, come light.” It mixes traditional and original songs in a way you don’t hear when you’re walking through the mall. Love it.
    Happy holidays to everyone.

  4. Howdy, Elizabeth! I hear you on mall music . . . it’s better than nothing, but it’s all so predictable. And repetitive! My husband and I have a rather eclectic mix of Christmas music, everything from Gregorian chants to Dean Martin singing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

    My favorites are the olde English sounding CDs. Love the mandolins!

    Have a wonderful holiday!

  5. Hi, Vicki. I love carols – from the traditional to the whimsical and everything in between. But I have to say, you were right on with your mention of Kathy Matthea’s rendition of “Mary Did You Know”. What a powerful song and poignant reminder of the miracle of “God with us”. I bought her Christmas album a couple years ago just to have that recording. The rest of the album is great, too. All focused on Christ.

    I don’t know of any cowboys who recorded this one, but I love the old carol “I Wonder as I Wander”. It is sung in a wonderful minor key and the lyrics are: “I wonder as I wander out under the sky; how Jesus the savior did come for to die; for poor lonely people like you and like I; I wonder as I wander out under the sky.”

    Can’t you just picture a lonely cowboy out checking the herd under the big western sky and pondering the birth of Jesus? Maybe he even hums a few lines to settle the cattle on a cold night.

    Have a blessed Christmas!

  6. Merry Christmas, Karen! I’ve heard “I Wonder as I Wander” and like it a lot. Regardless of who recorded it, it fits on the “cowboy” list with the mention of the sky.

    Wishing you a joyous Christmas and a new year full of happy surprises!

  7. What a great post! One of the things I like about Christmas is the music! Thats what puts me in the mood! You are so right about Johney Cash, his voice always told a story!

  8. Hi Linda! I finished shopping yesterday, more or less. Now it’s time to think about baking cookies : ) And wrapping! Yikes, there’s more to do than I thought!

    Hello Quilt Lady. Merry Christmas to you! May yout holiday be filled with love, laughter, carols, cookies and Christmas cheer!

  9. LOL @ the Gene Autry album cover!

    We had this when I was a kid, and we (my three siblings) played it so often at Christmas time it is a wonder our mom didn’t break it in half over her knee!

    While it isn’t a tender, loving, Nativity-based Christmas song, it IS sung by a cowboy: George Strait – “Christmas Cookies.” For a smiling change of pace, give it a listen. (I have no access to YouTube here at work, but there’s a fun animated version there — children giggling in the background to a “frog”-like creature “mouthing” the lyrics very cleverly!) You’ll be tapping your toes and looking to two-step with your favorite guy!

  10. Hi Mary, Thanks for the link! I’ll check it out. Love the song : )

    Good morning WandaSue! “Christmas Cookies” is adorable. If I’d done a Top 10, it would have been No. 6. That song always makes me smile. It’s definitely a toe-tapper!

  11. hi Vicki, oh, the John Denver one is so terrific.
    I loved him and miss him. My favorite country carol is Amy Grant’s “My Grown Up Christmas List.”

    I still have tons to do, too. Glad I have some kindred spirits out there! Merry Christmas, fillies and friends! May yours be white…or at least merry and bright.

  12. Hi Vickie,
    Loved your post. Nothing puts me in the Christmas spirit like music. I live in Southern California. If I want to see snow I have to go to the mall and stand beneath the snow machine. Is there a song for that?

  13. What a great post. I love all these songs. One of my favorites, but you don’t hear it much is What Child Is This, Tonya Tucker it great. Everyone who knows me knows this is one of my favorites. Merry Christmas. God Bless each and everyon.

  14. Hi Tanya, I’m taking a break from wrapping to check email. I’m almost done! Hang in there . . . Last minute stuff always piles up on me!

    Hello Margaret, As a Los Angeles native, I think it’s normal for Christmas Day to be 80 degrees. It’s great for kids riding new bikes and skateboards. One of these days, I’m going to decorate a palm tree instead of a pine just for fun. Merry Christmas to you!

  15. Howdy April! I love “What Child Is This.” It’s the song I played the most when I wrote “The Christmas Dove” for the anthology I did with Cheryl and Carolyn Davidson, “The Magic of Christmas.” It’s haunting and beautiful and full of love.

    Hi Melinda! Isn’t Gary Allan great? He’s an unsung star in country music. For the the life of me, I can’t figure out why he’s not higher on the charts than Tim or Toby or Taylor Swift. He’s got such a rugged voice . . . If he ever puts out a full Christmas album, I’m buying it! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  16. What a wonderful blog, today. I so love Christmas,but I do believe that my favorite Christmas song of all time is still “Oh, Come All ye Faithful.” Oh, how I love that song.

    Have a wonderful Christmas!

  17. O Holy Night has always been my favorite. Martina McBride does a wonderful rendition of it. I also like Angels We Have Heard On High. Amy Grant does a beautiful job on it.

  18. Hi Mary, Are you thinking of “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”? My youngest son thought that song was hilarious. It’s still a favorite.

    Hello Kay! I’ve got Christmas music playing while I’m wrapping presents. I just heard “O Come All Ye Faithful” by a group called Third Day. It’s very upbeat, very modern, but the awesomeness is still there. There are so many great songs . . . every year I find a new favorite.

  19. Hi Linda, “Angels We Have Heard On High” was my No. 1 favorite for a long time. There’s something about the chorus that makes me think I sing, which I can’t at all! The song always makes me think of miracles. Have a joyous holiday!

  20. Lovely post, Victoria. It is odd how the first time we hear a song or the way a certain performer sings/plays it effects how much we like it. I remember the first time I heard “Mary Did You Know” and “Carol Of The Bells”. I loved them instantly and they are my favorites.
    Last week I was driving home with my 11 year old grandson. The song “The 12 things at Christmas That Are Such A Pain To Me” (or whatever the title is) came on the car radio. He hadn’t really listened to it before. He got the giggles, each verse making him giggle harder. We both laughed through the whole song. I never really cared for the song, but it will now always bring a smile to my lips and remind me what a delight it was to have my grandson so tickled. Little things, that is what make life and this season so special.

  21. Oh Vicki, I love Christmas carols. O Holy Night is one of my favorites as is The First Noel. I’d never heard of Christmas For Cowboys but am a big fan of John Denver’s music so had to go check it out as soon as I read your post. I now have it on my list of faves as well. Thanks for the great post!

  22. Hi Patricia, What a special moment with your grandson! I have’t heard that particular song. I’ll have to listen for it. Christmas carols are a wonderful thing to share.

    Hi Winnie, You’ll like the John Denver song. My husband and I played the CD while wrapping presents this afternoon. The whole thing is special. Have a great holiday!

  23. one of my favorite Christmas songs is C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S that was sang by the late Jim Reeves. It is so pretty I used to play it on the organ at church when I was playing.

    mamat2730(at)charter(dot)net

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