An answer to the holiday music debate

Lilianne Harris, Beat Editor

Every year, there’s a time when some people begin listening exclusively to Christmas music while others argue that it’s way too early to do that. That time of the year is mid-November.

The debate over when to start listening to Christmas music is a never-ending one, likely due to how omnipresent Christmas music is during the latter months of the year. Stores are quick to wipe the dust off of their Christmas playlists and play them on repeat until the end of the year, so even if you aren’t there for holiday shopping, you have to listen all the same.

Everyone I talk to has strongly-held opinions on this, with a trend of people who love holiday music tending to want to listen to it earlier. However, I had never heard the topic discussed from a musician’s perspective. So I looked to my mother, who performs a handful of Christmas gigs each year.

If you’re going to book a holiday gig, prepare to book it months in advance. And I should know, given that my mother books these for her ensemble throughout the summer. If you don’t prepare for something like this before September, chances are you’re out of luck and you won’t get to play those performances.

Shortly after that, you’ll have to begin practicing if you want to sound any good. This means that even if, like my mom, you’re somebody who holds the opinion that Christmas music should only be listened to post-Thanksgiving you still have to listen to it in rehearsal.

One could argue that this point is moot, since practicing and listening to music isn’t the same. However, if you want to know what you need to get better at during practicing, you need to listen to yourself as you play. Even then, if you want to bring polish to the piece, you’ll want to look to other versions of the song for stylistic inspiration. If you are a musician who plays holiday performances, you have to listen to holiday music before December whether you enjoy doing so or not.

Regardless, and given the sharp uptick in “All I Want For Christmas Is You” searches starting late each October, I think that you can start listening to Christmas music whenever your heart desires. After all, unless you’re a retail store, you won’t be getting in the way of anybody if you practice or put on a playlist of holiday music any time of the year. And if you do decide to listen out loud in public, make sure it’s after Thanksgiving.