Music for Winter, Solstice, and Holidays of All Sorts

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Dec 19, 2022 / 0 comments

December. It is winter, solstice, and holidays of all sorts, of seasonal observances by those who hold many different faiths and by people who hold no faith .

Whatever you may be marking this winter season, music offers a way to find connection, reflection, celebration, and peace.

This is true even if Christmas is not your story, or you feel you have heard too much holiday music.

Solitude and gathering, chill winter landscape and warmth through lighted windows, quiet reflection and joyous celebration: these among the hallmarks of December’s many contrasts.

Listen in, and discover how these musicians have embraced these ideas and more of this season.

Music for Winter, Solstice, and Holidays of All Sorts

Very likely you have heard songs written by Gretchen Peters, even if her name isn’t immediately familiar. The Nashville-based singer and songwriter has seen her songs recorded by ariists including Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, the Neville Brothers, Patty Loveless, Martina McBride, and many others.

Peters is also a fine performer in her own right, perhaps better known for that in the UK than in the states. She has recently released a double album called The Show: Live from the UK.

Some years back, she released a winter-themed album called Northern Lights, which comprises traditional songs, contemporary music from Gordon Lightfoot, Kim Richey, and others, along with original songs.

One of those original songs is called Waitin’ on Mary.

If you are a person of faith, the lyrics will speak to you. They will also do so if you find yourself with doubts, or if the Christmas story is not for you.

It is a song to listen to for the whole story as it unfolds. You may come to find, as Peters sings, “Maybe tonight is Christmas Eve...”

Excellent keyboard work from Barry Walsh and fine backup singing from Suzy Boggus and Matraca Berg add to the depth of the story Peters tells, as well.

Ruth Keggin is a singer who comes from the Isle of Man, which is in the Irish Sea between Ireland and Scotland. Rachel Hair is a harp player and composer, who comes from Scotland and has often traveled to the Isle of Man to perform and to teach..

Ruth sings in the language of the Isle of Man, Manx Gaelic. The two musicians met up at music session some years ago, began performing together from time to time, and liked what they were creating so well that they have recently released a duo album, Lossan.

That is where you will find Arraneyn Cadlee, in which they bring together two Christmas-themed lullabyes.

The Christmas story speaks of a child placed in a manger stall: how about a song to go along that was written in a milking barn? The story goes that things were so noisy in his house in Tennessee back a hundred or so years ago, that Fisher Boyce went out to the barn to work on a song. It became Beautiful Star of Bethlehem. Emmylou Harris sings it here; you will find it on her album Light of the Stable.

Mark Kelly, of the band Altan who are based in Donegal, in Ireland, wrote a winter jig some years back called The Snowy Path. It is on their album Harvest Storm and appears on holiday compilation albums, too.

Cara Dillon and Sam Lakeman have put their own creativity into their version of the traditional song from Ireland, The Wexford Carol. You will find it on Cara’s album Upon a Winter’s Night.

Matt Heaton imagined a December story to go along with house he sometimes passes by in his neighborhood in Massachusetts near Boston. A gentle and cheerful story of hope and community, it is called First Snowfall of December. It is on Matt and Shannon Heaton’s album Fine Winter’s Night -- you will hear Shannon on harmony vocals and flute in the song, in addition to Matt’s lead singing and guitar.

Emily Smith evokes many sides of winter holidays in her original song Find Hope. It is a classic in the making, a favorite ever since Scotland-based Smith released her album Songs for Christmas a few years back.

In the video she’s joined by her husband and musical partner Jamie McClennan, guitarist Anna Massie, and a baby who would not sleep -- and who at Christmas this year is a happy primary school student.

May the creativity of these artists and the stories they tell brighten your December, and seasons beyond.


Thank you for staying with us through this journey. Below, you'll find a link that will take you to an article which has a bit more backstory on the series. It also has links to a number of the stories, including ones called Listening for Community, Music for Winter's Changes, and The Geography of Hope.

Music for Shifting Times

Music for Shifting Times



Kerry Dexter is Music Editor at Wandering Educators. 

You may find more of Kerry's work in National Geographic Traveler, Strings, Perceptive Travel, Journey to Scotland, Irish Fireside, and other places, as well as at her own site, Music Road.