Christmas Music Comes Early This Year

Yuletide tunes are all over the radio already

by Rick Gershman | Updated 21 Nov 2016 at 9:27 AM

In today’s culture, it seems like it’s never too early to get started. Movie studios produce teasers for motion pictures that haven’t even started filming yet. James Cameron has “Avatar” sequels lined up through 2023 — even though that movie’s first sequel isn’t even due until 2018.

And then there’s Christmas. The holiday only comes around once a year, but the fun is all the run-up throughout December. And November. Sometimes even October. And that’s when you think: Hey, why are we starting so early? What is this, an election?

“I’ll use it when I’m having a rough day or just need a pick-me-up.”

There’s an name for the phenomenon — Christmas creep — and you know it’s real because it has its own Wikipedia entry.

It can be used in regard to retailers starting holiday promotions earlier every year, but it also refers specifically to radio stations breaking out the Christmas music as early as the day after Halloween.

‘Tis the season when newspapers and local TV stations around the country announce which local radio station has decided to either thrill or repulse listeners (depending on your personal preference) by switching to 24/7 Christmas music.

Last week, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote about dueling local radio stations that suddenly switched formats — albeit just until the holidays are over — to constantly play Christmas music. Similar stories appear all over the nation.

As for the retail experience, there are some indications that a "less is more" approach to Christmas music might be best. Last year, an Adweek magazine article delved into the question of how to find the sweet spot for shoppers' holiday tune tolerance.

The article cited a YouGov poll indicating that "while Americans would much rather listen to Christmas music than watch Christmas ads, only 31 percent of respondents said they look forward to holiday music 'a lot.' An equal number said they only enjoy it 'some,' while the remaining 34 percent reported they like Christmas music 'not much' or 'not at all.'"

Another poll reported that more than one-third of shoppers actually left a store early due to Christmas music overload.

John Brais of Lone Tree, Colorado, presently works as a computer engineer. But one of his first jobs, about eight years ago, was as a retail clerk for a large department store in nearby Englewood.

"Our manager thought it was hilarious to start playing holiday music in September," he said. "Which you're not supposed to do, because corporate [policy] is like you have to wait until Thanksgiving, but she didn't care ... And if you [whined] about it, she'd call you a fuddy-duddy. Seriously — a fuddy-duddy. It was like 'Office Space' or something."

Brais said he could only make it through one holiday season there: "I can't even hear that stuff anymore without losing it. If 'Last Christmas' comes on when I'm at CVS, I walk right out. It's [also] because I hated that job. It's like [post-traumatic stress disorder] ... I start having flashbacks to Black Friday and wanting to hide in the bathroom until everyone left."

But not everyone turns into the Grinch when "Little Drummer Boy" or "Silent Night" starts playing. For Laura Simis of Raleigh, North Carolina, it's never too soon for Christmas music. She said she's "notorious" among family, friends, and coworkers for listening to it as early as April.

"I will usually only listen to it in my headphones or when I'm alone, but some of my coworkers have jumped on the bandwagon and let me play it out loud in our office as early as August," said Simis, a comedy writer and blogger. "Christmas music always cheers me up and reminds me of warm, cozy feelings, so I'll use it when I'm having a rough day or just need a pick-me-up."

Simis said her affinity for Christmas music has certain advantages. For example: "I can impress elderly people with my ability to discern Bing Crosby from Andy Williams from Perry Como from Dean Martin! I can also do a pretty accurate voice impersonation of the Muppets singing 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' — which I can only hope will someday be a cool party trick."

Employees at Holiday World, a theme park in Santa Claus, Indiana — home of the world's only postal office named "Santa Claus" — truly need to appreciate Christmas music.

Related: Son's Christmas List: Best Lesson in the World

"We hear it all summer long," said Paula Werne, director of communications for Holiday World and its accompanying water park, Splashin' Safari.

"Throughout our Christmas-themed section … we play Christmas music from April through September," Werne said. "It's fun to stand just inside the front gate and watch the surprised looks on the faces of first-time guests who don't expect to hear 'Jingle Bells' in 90-degree June weather!"

After a summer of non-stop "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and "Winter Wonderland," Werne said, she's ready for a short break: "Personally, I take it easy in the fall and purposely don't play Christmas music at home or in my office until after Thanksgiving. But after that — bring it on!"

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  2. christmas
  3. music
  4. yule