To acquire wisdom, one must observe

A survey reveals opinions about Christmas music: Is it the most wonderful time of the year?

Halloween’s protection expired 18 days ago, freeing Ms. Carey from the ice as “All I Want for Christmas Is You” oozes into the atmosphere like the CO2 stored in the polar ice caps. Now that my favorite holiday (and birthday) has passed, it is time to tackle one of the biggest debates in the music industry: when is the appropriate time to start listening to Christmas music?

This is a topic that attracts many strong emotions and opinions. Thus, I sent out a Google form survey through my Instagram and The Brandeis Hoot to collect a range of data regarding peers’ feelings about Christmas music; so the results presented in this article are not only from Brandeis students. (Although one may assume this article may not reach a target audience, it should be known that many famous Christmas tunes actually were written by Jewish composers—from “Silver Bells” to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer” to “Santa Baby.”)

I am no exception when it comes to having strong opinions about Christmas music, so I suppose I should preface this article with my own feelings and potential biases. My mother is Catholic and my father is Jewish, so every December the staircase is decked out in garland, colored lights outline the house, and we decorate our 14-foot-tall tree together—oh, and sometimes we remember to take out the Menorah. As we decorate our house, Alexa sets the mood with her Christmas music station, which means the same songs repeat every couple of hours. I enjoy these times and even listen to some of my favorites on a Spotify playlist, which I have to scroll and scroll to find each year. But you won’t catch me “Christmas Wrapping” with The Waitresses anytime soon; I still have respect for Thanksgiving. 

A tradition in my home begins each year on Thanksgiving after dinner, when my family braces the evening chill (or maybe it’ll be 70 degrees this year—depends on Mariah’s effect on those ice caps). Someone sacrifices the view by venturing to the back of the house to the outside outlet, while the rest of us line up on the sidewalk. Then, a countdown—followed by the plugging in of the Christmas lights, marking our official transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas (at least, for those of us who still acknowledge the separation). It is only after this time that I willingly put in my AirPods and let Christmas Kelly Clarkson push Midnights Taylor Swift from my monthly Receiptify—and no sooner. I have to draw a line somewhere, and on the other side, that line is midnight on Dec. 25. 

Of the 52 participants in my survey, 21 also stop listening to Christmas music on this date, while 15 do not and the rest said it depends.

My survey consisted of five main questions, two of which had sub-questions, and ended with an option to leave a personalized comment. To set the scene, the first question asked: “Overall, do you enjoy Christmas music?” 67.3% of respondents said yes, 28.8% said it depends, while the small percentage remaining said no. Of the 50 people who did not say “no,” 44% said that Christmas is their favorite holiday. 

Just like myself, 25 respondents assertively admitted to listening to Christmas music on their own time, specified as listening to it outside of the radio, public spaces and/or with friends and family. From here, I asked the most defining question: how soon do people listen to Christmas music?

The earliest option available was June, marking the six-month countdown until Christmas. Although I’d included this option as a joke, one person did select it, so using the honor system we have to accept that there is at least one individual out there who sings Christmas carols during the heat of summer. Next time when I get a larger sample population, we can test the commonality of this habit. 

The largest portion of respondents, 30.8%, begins to listen to Christmas music “around and/or on Thanksgiving.” I was actually surprised to see that only 15.4% whip out their Christmas playlists on Nov. 1, despite all the memes about Mariah Carey defrosting that resurface each year on 11:59 p.m. of Halloween (huh, I guess the Internet is not always an accurate representation of life). 

Regardless, I am only one person removed from someone who listens to Christmas music so early. One of my closest friends, Sophie Sheklin, is quoted as she sat on my dorm room floor: “[My roommate] started playing Christmas music on November 2, which made me a little mad . . . I thought I could escape that at Brandeis!” (Disclaimer: Sophie and her roommate are very close and I was assured that her roommate would laugh at this quotation.) While I was about to agree with Sophie on this point, I had to take a step back as she delivered the second part of her statement: “It was Ariana Grande Christmas music, so at least it wasn’t Mariah Carey, so that meant at least it was good Christmas music.” To each their own, but you can DM me for her dorm building and room number. (Disclaimer: “Santa Tell Me” by Grande is in my Christmas music playlist.)

Three individuals added their own responses to the same question. While they all presented their stance in different ways, the consensus was the same: they listen to Christmas music whenever they want, which can translate to . . . to . . . year-round. I’m tempted to expose these individuals, but alas, I intended to keep the survey anonymous.

Not everyone listens to Christmas music on their own time, so I asked a follow-up question: “At what time do you not get annoyed when you hear Christmas music in public?” All 52 respondents had something to say about that. 

Results here were a mixed bag. Putting aside personal preferences from the previous question, 21.2% said they did not get annoyed starting on Nov. 1, with a shocking 19.2% who said before Halloween. On the flipside, 19.2% also said that they only stop getting annoyed after Thanksgiving. Two individuals went as far to respond “never,” with a third who customized their response: “NEVER ANNOYED” (yes, in all caps). Equally, three individuals said they are always annoyed. 

Lastly, I will address the personalized comment box, which 16 respondents used. Some respondents simply expressed their joy for Christmas music one last time—“Christmas music slays :)”—while another expressed their frustration with this topic through excessive punctuation: “Christmas does not start before Thanksgiving!!!!” Others listed their favorite songs, including: “Christmas Tree Farm” by Taylor Swift, “Carol of the Bells,” “Sleigh Ride,” “River” by Joni Mitchell and “Christmas Lights” by Coldplay (in no particular order). 

Although my survey suffered from non-response bias and did not reach the widest group of respondents, I think my following conclusion is safe to put into print: one is entitled to enjoy Christmas music whenever they please, especially if it brings them joy—no matter the time of year. Although it might not have the same effect when the trees are blossoming and everything returns to green (outside, not the stuff we bring into our living rooms), Christmas music is often a simple joy that cannot be bashed. Yes, the repeated Macy’s commercials and Christmas capitalism can hinder the experience and peace for some, but on a personal level, let Christmas music soothe the ears of whoever is willing to listen. 

Despite the slight change of topic, one respondent did wish me to leave you all with a controversial opinion in the personalized comment box: “Die Hard is the greatest Christmas movie.” Maybe next week you’ll see a poll about that.

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