How do you tell that Christmas time is upon us?
Do you see the streets fill with happy, bustling people out to spread the joy of the season? Do you smell the crisp aroma of chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Can you sense that little magical chill in the air as you greet passers-by and tighten your scarf around your neck? Well no, and neither do I. I know it’s nearing Christmas time because I have the same old songs being blasted mercilessly into my head every time I switch on the radio or go into a department store.
Christmas songs all come with a bittersweet taste to them. They are fun, everyone knows them, you can all sing along to them and you can bond over the songs that we have all had drummed into us since childhood, but when they are played too early in the year then all of this nostalgic magic is just sucked from them. No matter what age you are the opening to Fairytale Of New York never fails to send chills down your spine and set your heart racing with excitement, but when this happens in mid-November and you realise that you’re going to have heard it about 1000 times more by the time Christmas comes, that excitement does somewhat dwindle a bit.
…all designed to be recyclable and disposable…
The reason we all love them is because they aren’t real songs, they are made entirely and specifically for Christmas. Hearing them too much makes them annoyingly real, and, as good as some of them are, they shouldn’t creep into the same context as regular songs. Christmas songs, no matter how much effort or art goes into them, are all designed to be recyclable and disposable, and like every catchy, one-hit wonder song, there eventually comes a time when you realise it was just a phase and it isn’t actually that good. Of course, this doesn’t go for every Christmas song, but even the best lose their magic and become plain annoying after a while. Christmas songs should be like the birthday song: sang only when it’s relevant. If people started singing happy birthday to you a month before the day, you would be very relieved when that day was over.
I think I resent the radio stations for playing Mariah Carey, Wham! and all the others at this point because not only do they rob me of my right to not feel Christmassy and make me feel joyful when I have much more important things to think about, but they also remind me that I need to start writing cards and buying gifts, which is a horrendous, stressful experience that I would prefer to put off as long as I can. So the fact that Mariah Carey has already been played 285 times on British radio does make me shamefully excited that the most wonderful time of the year is coming, but my sense of dread and annoyance outweighs this by quite a bit.
To me, the Christmas music limbo that we experience every November is like a day at a theme park. There are some people that run straight in the gates and go for the biggest rollercoaster, and then spend the rest of the day feeling sick and dizzy, and then there are the sensible ones who do it in nice, easy stages, a few little rides, some medium ones and then, in the last hour, you go for the big ones and leave feeling like you’ve got all that could out of it. So don’t bombard us with all this magical, joyous, festive, holy, jolly music until absolutely necessary, or that horrible transition from Santa-loving child to penny-counting, Scrooge-like adult will come all the quicker.