Music can help set the mood and the tone for whatever activities you want to encourage as well. In the week leading up to vacation, when the kids still have homework to do, try playing selections from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker. The music can help kids focus, but it still carries the excitement of the coming holidays.
In the car, as you shuttle kids to holiday parties and shopping excursions, pop in Barenaked for the Holidays, where the Canadian Barenaked Ladies (who are actually fully clothed men, don't worry!) perform holiday classics, including a few Hanukah songs.
Once you've got the whole family home for the holidays, keep your holiday glow on with two Julie Andrews albums: Christmas with Julie Andrews and Greatest Christmas Songs. Pop in Bing Crosby's Christmas Classics and don't be surprised if you catch the kids singing along.
If the classics aren't going to fly with your kids, get creative and pull out A Rock N' Roll Christmas, which features Elton John and Jon Bon Jovi (and many others) singing songs that will have everyone in the house humming along. You can also check out Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits: 1955-Present for some unforgettable favorites.
Another fun music option is the soundtracks to some of your favorite holiday films -- or even soundtracks from some of the holiday films you've hated. Jingle All the Way and This Christmas might not be your idea of Oscar-winning films, but their soundtracks make for some mighty fine music. The Home Alone soundtracks are also a lot of fun -- for you and the kids.
If you have younger children who love to sing along, look for an album like Kids Sing The Best Christmas Songs Ever or Coolest Kidz Bop Christmas Ever. Kids especially enjoy singing along with their peers, and you know that these versions won't sound like what you typically hear piped throughout the department store's sound system.
When the kids are finally in bed and you'd like something a little more grown-up, try the soundtracks for Love, Actually and The Holiday. Bonus: rent the movies if you've never seen them -- they're both excellent and a nice break from the more typical holiday fare.
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