Last week, my roommate and I went shopping at JCPenney. To my surprise, the store was fully decked out for Christmas! I’m talking mannequins wearing matching holiday PJs, ugly Christmas sweaters on every rack, and the smooth voice of Michael Bublé floating from the overhead speakers. While it was definitely a pleasant surprise, I found myself feeling a little… sad?
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the holiday season, and I’m very excited to get all holly and jolly, but as I stood listening to Ariana Grande hit those high notes in “Santa Tell Me,” I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. I mean, I had homework due the next day! I had an exam coming up that week! The festive atmosphere had me feeling like I should’ve been able to drive home and cuddle up on the couch with some hot chocolate. But alas, ’twas not the night before Christmas. In fact, ’twas the night before a midterm!
The whole ordeal made me wonder: when is the right time to start listening to Christmas music? How do we strike the perfect balance between being close enough to December 25 that we don’t feel like the holiday is ages away, but still early enough that we can make the holiday season last as long as possible? Well, I took to the streets (of UMass) and asked the people. I discovered that this was a very touchy subject for many. There are basically three schools of thought, and the advocates of each are willing to die on their respective hills.
I interviewed twenty-plus community members, and seven individuals (quite passionately) informed me that November 1 is, in fact, the perfect time to start listening to Christmas music. If I’m being honest, my mom always started playing holiday music in our car as soon as Halloween was over, so this early bird approach is not something new to me. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” one student gushed. “Why wouldn’t you want it to start as early as possible?”
Many interviewees argued that if stores are playing Christmas music, there’s nothing wrong with matching their energy. Some also said that starting to listen to holiday music as early as possible helps stretch out the season, so you can really soak up every drop of Christmas spirit. For these November 1 listeners, I followed up with a question about when they started decorating. Five out of the seven said any time after November 1 is fair game, and two said after Thanksgiving. These folks would probably have no problem with JCPenney’s premature decorations, and they really made me feel like a major Scrooge for even questioning them.
The most common answer I received while conducting this survey was that the appropriate time to begin listening to Christmas music is after Thanksgiving. This happens to be my own stance on the topic as well. In my mind, it makes sense to wait until after one holiday to begin prepping for another. One interviewee so elegantly stated that, “if you celebrate a holiday for months before it even happens, it cheapens the experience, and therefore you’re robbing yourself of more joy.” They said that since Black Friday, the big shopping day after Thanksgiving, begins the holiday season, this is the appropriate time to begin the music-listening and merry-making.
Another interviewee pointed out that most radio stations start playing holiday music after Turkey Day, therefore indicating that it is socially acceptable to begin listening. In my own personal opinion, Santa’s appearance at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade marks the end of the Thanksgiving holiday and the beginning of the Christmas season, and is, therefore, a big green light for holiday music. I mean, who can argue with jolly old St. Nick himself?
As passionate as the interviewees were who began listening in November or after Thanksgiving, the most fervid (and borderline… angry?) responses came from those who forbid listening to Christmas music until after December 1, though the reasons why varied from person to person.
One interviewee explained that he used to sing holiday music for a choral group, and he had to begin rehearsing those tunes in September. He said that ever since, he has refused to listen to those familiar songs until December 1 at the absolute earliest, to avoid jingling all the way to a migraine.
Another interviewee told me that stores playing Christmas music in November is just a strategic ploy to get people to go into “shopping mode,” and therefore, waiting until December to listen is her way of rejecting capitalist greed. Honestly, that’s fair.
Most others said that they simply don’t love holiday music, and so they didn’t see a need to start listening any earlier than they had to. One person even said that they’d rather save Christmas music for holiday parties, and would never listen to it by choice. Is that a tad Grinch-y? I’d say yes, but it’s really none of my business. That’s between them and Santa Claus.
So, there you have it! The right time to begin listening to Christmas music depends on who you ask. Some are already jing-a-linging as soon as they feel a chill in the air, and others would wait until 12:00:00 a.m. on December 25 if they could. I’ll be hanging my stocking and decking my halls on November 26, but if this survey has taught me anything, it’s that the Christmas season really begins whenever we decide.