Have you ever walked into a shop at the beginning of November and wondered, why are they playing Christmas music already? There’s lot of debate about when the most appropriate time is to start listening to Christmas songs. Impact’s Abigél Lancaster considers the consumerist aspect of the holiday and opinions of when the right time is.
Christmas music is undoubtedly one of the best parts of the season. Music plays a massive part in helping us get into the festive spirit, and provides much needed happiness at a time of year that would otherwise be quite miserable, with the weather becoming colder and the nights longer. Whether its religious carols like Silent Night, timeless classics like Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, 90s chart-toppers like All I Want for Christmas Is You, or more recent Christmas songs like Ariana Grande’s Santa Tell Me, there’s something in the genre for everyone. Even the biggest Scrooges can probably admit to liking at least one Christmas song.
Though these songs can bring pure, unbridled joy when played at the right time of year, beginning to blast them in shops too early can have the opposite desired effect. Part of the charm and magic of these songs is that they are a fundamental part of Christmas, and hearing lyrics about snow and presents in the middle of Autumn just feels bizarre and out of place. Confusion soon turns to frustration when you realise this is what you can expect until Christmas Day itself, and retail staff in particular can relate to the feeling of being exasperated by these songs after hearing them for months on end. I work in a card shop and hear nothing but Christmas songs from early October, and find myself feeling almost relieved when Christmas has passed and the radio returns to normal.
For a country that claims to be multicultural, we seem incredibly fixated on this one holiday
It’s important to keep in mind that, whilst it has become a largely secular holiday, Christmas’s origins are in Christianity, and many Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs or individuals of other faiths may not feel comfortable celebrating the holiday for this reason. For a country that claims to be multicultural, we seem incredibly fixated on this one holiday – Eid or Diwali do not get this same level of attention, though it could be argued that these holidays have not been commercialised in the same way. That’s not to say we shouldn’t play these songs in public at all, but perhaps we should give a little more thought to how turning Christmas into a months long event can alienate entire groups of people, and make them think twice about entering spaces that should be open to all.
In a way, Christmas songs are also inextricably linked with the consumerist culture around Christmas shopping. Big corporations know that the earlier they put out their Christmas stock and start playing those carols in their stores, the longer they will have to profit from the festive season. The months long build up to Christmas can put an immense amount of pressure on people to make the day special, encouraging them to start their Christmas shopping earlier and spend hundreds of pounds on presents, many of which may be unwanted. Many of us have fallen victim to Christmas capitalism, convincing ourselves that each Christmas must be better than the last and that spending more money is the way to achieve this. But the length of the build-up to Christmas will always make the day itself seem anticlimactic, and many end Christmas day surrounded by unwanted clutter and with little disposable income left.
This cycle of overconsumption and environmental damage is completely incompatible with the message of generosity and kindness within most Christmas songs
Not only is this level of consumerism unsustainable for most families in the current cost of living crisis, but it also produces a staggering amount of waste – an approximate 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging are thrown away every year at Christmas, as well as around 5% of gifts. This cycle of overconsumption and environmental damage is completely incompatible with the message of generosity and kindness within most Christmas songs. There’s something quite ironic about hearing the words “feed the world” in Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas whilst standing in a shop full to the brim with overpriced gifts, many of which are sure to never be used.
Some might argue that this isn’t the main purpose of Christmas songs and that playing them earlier in the year just extends the period for which we can enjoy them. Regardless, I think most would say that it only takes a few weeks for the novelty to grow old. There are only so many Christmas songs out there, and listening to them all a hundred times in a 2 month time span has you bored to tears with a holiday that hasn’t even really started yet.
So – when is the right time to start playing Christmas songs? Some would argue the 1st of November, as by this point Halloween is over and people may as well prepare for the next holiday. Others may not even consider putting on Last Christmas until December itself. Personally, I think mid-late November is the sweet spot, as it gives you a solid month to get in the Christmas spirit whilst not being quite long enough to get too bored with them. Whatever your opinion, I think we can all agree that there is a too soon when it comes to playing Christmas music.
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