How Soon Is Too Soon for Christmas Music?

By, Phoenix Robertson

Christmas music. Yep, that oddly specific genre of music where it is perfectly acceptable to talk about an incredibly old man who keeps tabs on all the children of the world and how wonderfully cold it is outside. It has become an age-old debate of when it is appropriate to start listening to these sounds of yuletide cheer. To finally end this debate, I am asking you, the denizens of Heritage High School, when you start listening to Christmas music, as well as filling you all in on a bit of holiday history.

The Commercialization of Christmas

Christmas is the celebration of what is believed to be the birth of Jesus Christ in the Christian faith. It was primarily considered to be a day of prayer until the “early 20th century, it also became a secular family holiday, observed by Christians and non-Christians alike”. In present time, a large portion of the celebration of Christmas has become partaking in various traditions that have grown in popularity over the years. One of these traditions is participating in the celebration of Santa Claus and his associated parties. 

Much of the story of jolly Santa Claus and his red nosed reindeer, Rudolph, were created for the sole purpose of the economic benefit of different businesses. Rudolph the reindeer “was invented in 1939 so that Montgomery Ward stores could give away millions of copies of his heart-warming story”.There is some truth to the story of Santa Claus, who is one of the most prominent characters in Christmas songs, as “the legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas”, but the image of Santa has been changed a great deal from its original state. 

In some of the original accounts of St. Nicholas lived in what could now be described as modern day Turkey and was the protector of sailors and children, saving them from mighty storms. One of his most notable stories of saving children is donating a great sum of money to the father of three daughters so that they did not have to be sold into prostitution. Saint Nick’s image now is very different and, of course, much easier for companies to profit off of. With pictures of a round, rosy cheeked“Jello-like” old man plastered all around during November to December, how could companies not make money? His welcoming eyes and red suit usher in the millions to “buy, buy, buy!”,  bringing in millions of dollars each year. 

The commercialization of Christmas has greatly benefited companies and businesses that supply Christmas-themed merchandise. However, the emphasis on the new pro-consumerism theme of Christmas distracts greatly from the religious meaning of the holiday. 

The History of Christmas Music

To understand the current popularization of Christmas music it is important to understand the roots of Christmas music. The first ever Christmas carol “to be recorded was the 129 AD ‘Angels Hymn’”. Caroling did not begin, however, until the 1800s, but at the time it was known as “wassailing”. This demonstrates how ingrained Christmas music and caroling is in the culture of Christmas celebrations.

I think that the continued popularity of caroling is not because of the actual fun brought on by the action, but because of the nostalgia that the act of singing Christmas songs and caroling brings those that take part in it. The nostalgia brought on by these songs has numerous neurological effects on the listener. It was noted by Frederick S. Barrett, a researcher of psychedelics, music, and emotion, and Petr Janata, a neuroscientist, that the “frontal, limbic, paralimbic, and midbrain brain regions in which the strength of the relationship between ratings of nostalgia evoked by music”. This shows that listening to songs that give you a positive nostalgic feeling can actually have positive effects in terms of your neurological health, so it goes beyond giving you that warm cozy feeling. It can then be inferred that if the listener associates negative emotions with a song, then negative nostalgic feelings could be invoked. 

Poll Data

The students, teachers and staff of Heritage High have spoken. According to your poll results, fifty percent of the respondents stated that they think it is appropriate to listen to Christmas music starting after Thanksgiving, during late November. 22.2%t said that December first is the appropriate starting time and another 22.2%of respondents said after Halloween. And as it should be, the smallest percentage of respondents, 5.6%, said that it is appropriate to start listening to Christmas music before Halloween. Thank you for your participation!

Personal Opinions

I am of the opinion that you can listen to whatever kind of music you want to listen to, whenever you’d like to listen to it. Do you love the feeling that “Take Me Home Country Roads” by John Denver gives you as you walk around the bustling streets of New York city? Fantastic! Can’t get enough of “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper, but it just so happens to be the first day of school? Play it louder! What about “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” on July 4th and “Party in the USA” on Christmas day? I do not oppose either of these ideas. 

  Ultimately, the decision of when to listen to what music is based purely on personal preference. The increasingly long period of availability for Christmas related merchandise is due to the fact that the holiday, as is the case with many holidays, is becoming more and more commercialized. I think that people often associate listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving, or towards the beginning of the winter season, with the commercialization of Christmas. This doesn’t necessarily have to be true. 

I do agree that companies profiting off of a religious holiday, such as Christmas, and the often nostalgic feelings associated with the day and time of year are bad. However, I do not  agree that by listening to Christmas music during or before certain periods of the calendar year makes you in agreement with the commercialization of Christmas. 

When a person listens to music they are most likely not thinking about the economic implications of listening to that song. For example, when you listen to “Monster Mash”, the 1962 Halloween hit, are you thinking about how many businesses are going to be reaping potentially millions of dollars this Halloween season in royalties? Chances are, you didn’t think about that when all you wanted to do is listen to one song. The same case applies to Christmas music.

Conclusions and Christmas Charismatic Carols

As Christmas hits begin to climb the music charts, people near and far are starting to get into the holiday spirit. To conclude this article, I’d like to share a few of my favorite songs that really exude those festive feelings.

  • “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”, Brenda Lee
  • “Jingle Bell Rock”, Bobby Helms
  • “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, Mariah Carey
  • “Frost the Snowman”, Gene Autry
  • “Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer”, Elmo and Patsy

Thank you all for reading and I’d like to thank everyone who participated in my poll for helping me to gather data to create this article. Comment your favorite Christmas song and when you feel it’s appropriate to start listening to Christmas music! 

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