I used to be strict about when I would let Christmas into my life. Nothing before Thanksgiving. Many people use this as the launching point for the Christmas season. NBC does, always declaring, (as though they had some specific authority to do so) at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade that the holiday season was “officially underway.”
As I got older, I wasn’t as much of a stickler, though I still naturally gravitated toward Thanksgiving as the official moment that I could start celebrating Christmas. Believe it or not, until a few years ago, radio stations actually didn’t go wall to wall with their Christmas music until Thanksgiving Day, and a few never did until Christmas Eve. Hard to believe, I know.
One radio station in my area had a Christmas in July gag for a few years. They don’t do it anymore, but for 12 hours on July 25 they’d play their Christmas song list. I thought it was kind of fun to hear “Silver Bells” with my window down in a 98 degree Maryland summer. A few minutes of Christmas never hurt anyone, and when that station stopped doing it, I adopted my own version. I’d listen to one single Christmas album in July, just for fun. Sometimes I’ll watch a single Christmas movie instead. I still do that.
But that is a mere gimmick, and everyone knows it. What of the actual so called “Christmas Creep”, wherein decorations and music and commercials for the holidays begin to show up earlier and earlier every year, seeming to shove good old Thanksgiving right off the calendar? I’ll admit, it cane be a problem. Anything before Halloween is a bit sickening to me, though as a few friends in retail have explained to me, there isn’t always time to set up the Christmas displays during the actual Christmas season, because everyone is too busy running the Christmas season. I can see some argument to that, though playing music in the story on November 1 might be a bit much, even if setting up the Christmas items for sale is not.
The Music Choice tv station for the holidays switched from Halloween to Christmas music in the first few days of December. Stays that way until a few days into January. Though in time gone by I wouldn’t have, I sometimes leave that on before Thanksgiving. In the last few years, I come to determine that the Christmas season comes and goes so quickly, and the music can be a pick me up as winter approaches, it can do no harm to listen to the tunes In November. “We Gather Together” is the only strictly Thanksgiving song I know of anyway, and I don’t want to hear that one over and over again until the third Thursday of the month.
Still, old habits do die hard, and regardless of my more open-minded approach to listening to certain Christmas music anytime in November, I have never quite shaken the notion that nothing is “official” until Thanksgiving. Some of the Christmas music I listen to before Thanksgiving is more like spring training before the actual season.
It’s not until the “actual” season that I break out the music that I most associate with Christmas. The albums that have been in the family longer than I have, and without which it wouldn’t seem like Christmas. In many cases, playing those before Thanksgiving would seem slightly profane, even now.
Then there’s the radio. Until the local stations switch to their all-Christmas playlists, it doesn’t quite feel like the season. The local stations aren’t great, and they play the same 30 songs a lot of the time during Christmas. Still, riding around in the cold with the Washington or Baltimore Christmas station on feels like the season has finally arrived, annoying as some aspects of them may be. Their arrival is not as important as my family’s classic albums, but it does usher in one final milestone before everyone accepts the season. It might not always be moving, but songs long “Step Into Christmas” and “Jingle Bell Rock” usher in the material, party, straight up fun of the holidays at least.
For a while even those songs were too early. The high water mark of Christmas Creep for the local stations was two weeks before Thanksgiving. That was disorienting. Even the commercial radio stations have moderated their calendar in the last few years, though; both are not switching over until a few days before Thanksgiving. They’ve been like that for a while now.
So even if I don’t always feel its maximum intended power before Thanksgiving, I’ve learned to accept some creeping of the holiday into early November. October is the limit. Halloween must come first, even now, (despite my sometime pranky Christmas listening earlier than that.) Maybe, like baseball games in March, it doesn’t mean much in the end. But I still watch a few innings anyway. A home run is still a little fun to watch on March 10th, even if it doesn’t count, after all.