Thursday, December 2, 2021

Dueling columns: When does the most wonderful time of the year start?

November 4, 2021
Photo illustration by Daena Faustino and Devin Anderson-Torrez.
Photo illustration by Daena Faustino and Devin Anderson-Torrez. —
Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

DAN NETTER, PRO-CHRISTMAS MUSIC

When I was in high school, I was a follower. I knew how to adhere to society’s standards and supported these guidelines to a T. 

But no more. 

Last year, I broke the largely self-imposed barriers and started listening to Christmas music right after Halloween. 

I know — brave. Some will say: “What? That’s way too early, I always start after Thanksgiving.”

Nonsense.

For far too long, the day after Thanksgiving has given permission for people to crank up Andy Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Waiting until then means you have maybe a month (sometimes less!) to listen to Christmas music. That is too short of a time to be filled with holly and jolly each time you hear a Trans-Siberian Orchestra song come on. 

If you start right after Halloween that brings the day count to just under two months to listen which — with the proper moderation and expansion — is the proper amount of time to take when listening to Christmas music. 

For me personally, there is a lot of positive memories attached to Christmas music.

Hearing “Joy to the World” makes me think of singing in my church choir when I was younger. Listening to “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney makes me think of singing the song with my dad while he drove me on Christmas Eve to get presents for my brothers. Getting an earful of “Last Christmas” by Wham! reminds me of singing along to the song with my bubble of friends after a long and difficult year. 

One of the better reasons I hear about why people should not listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving is burnout. Soon stores and malls will start playing the music on repeat, which will, rightly, exhaust the music for many. 

While I get this — particularly for workers of these stores — this is more or less burnout of the normal Christmas music that is drained of any purpose and meaning after hearing it for the thirty-first time in one day. 

If you are listening to only Frank Sinatra’s “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” over and over again ... yes, you are going to get a little sick of Christmas music. You need to introduce a little variety of what you are listening to, not just the classics. Maybe, you need to listen to some Christmas music in a different language, or some Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings’ holiday album, or literally anything other than Mannheim Steamroller, Mom.

Last year in particular I needed the holiday cheer. The first months of the pandemic were difficult, I had a number of relatives die for reasons related and unrelated to COVID-19. I was stuck at home with my parents and — like all students — having my computer screen suck the life out of me for the five hours a day I was in class.

Christmas music was a small thing I could do every day that would brighten my mood a little. 

Having a rough time with a final essay? Boom, I play Anderson Paak’s cover of “Linus and Lucy.” Sad because I was stuck at home? Bam, I unironically play Marvin Gaye’s “I Want To Come Home for Christmas.”

I cannot point to any research that proves Christmas music brings cheer. But whenever I hear it, it makes me excited for the holiday season to come: Getting the first snowfall, seeing my neighbors put up their lights and having to get out and put up little Santa Clauses around my house. 

Obviously, this is not a full-throated endorsement. I am not saying you should play Christmas music all the time. All I am saying is that Christmas music is an easy way to brighten your mood, so why not start a little earlier this year?

DREW GORETZKA - AGAINST CHRISTMAS MUSIC

Listen, I get it.

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I understand why people love Christmas music. I comprehend why you would play it a full two months before the holiday itself.

To many, it brings a sense of cheer. Christmas music can serve as a wonderful reminder of simple things. The memories associated with childhood and whimsy is something that is generally absent in everyday life.

However, I cannot get behind this trend. You won’t find Christmas music playing in my headphones or speakers until, if you’re lucky, Christmas Eve. 

I know this sounds like a cynical take. I sound like the kind of guy who would tell people to “grow up,” or complain about all the youngsters playing Fortnite.

Before you ask, I do drink my coffee black.

It’s not like that at all. Let me explain myself.

My first big gripe with playing Christmas music before December is a matter of respect. Why does Thanksgiving get completely ignored in the midst of the holiday season?

I’m a simple man, and Thanksgiving is a simple holiday. I get to show up, eat delicious food and watch football with family members I see twice a year. It really is the perfect holiday, and I think it's a shame that people overshadow it with Christmas music playing in the background.

I’m also convinced that Christmas music was simply not made for my ears.

I listen to podcasts far more often than music, and as such I’m very particular with the music I play. I hardly ever throw on background music. If I’m listening to a song, I’m actively listening to it.

Christmas music is not made to be intentionally listened to. It’s supposed to set a scene and provide a positive jingle in the background of life. 

Have you tried hanging on to every note of a holiday song? With the exception of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” it’s torture. It feels as if you’re using the wrong tool for the job. Unfortunately, that’s the only job music serves for me.

In the same vein as my Thanksgiving opinion, I have a confession: I think Christmas is overrated.

I enjoy Christmas. I enjoy giving and getting gifts. I love the traditions and the hot cocoa. There are few things more ethereal than a snowy Christmas morning, bringing back waves of childhood memories.

If we’re being honest, though, some people romanticize this holiday a bit too much.

I’m certain corporate America has convinced us that Christmas is a lifestyle between the months of October and December. There’s a reason attics across America have entire corners dedicated to Christmas decoration storage. Like with the NFL or iPhones, Christmas is a commodity that we have mutually agreed is an integral part of American culture.

I just don’t buy it. No pun intended.

I see Christmas for what it is— a day off and an opportunity to spend time with loved ones. There’s an added bonus of gift-giving and fun activities, but at the end of the day, it's no different than Easter or the Fourth of July.

And if you notice, no other holiday has a soundtrack to go with it. Therefore, I feel no need to play “The Little Drummer Boy” while walking to class.

That being said, I’ll still be re-downloading Soundcloud to listen to “Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama” come Dec. 1.

A CHRISTMAS PLAYLIST IF YOU'RE ON DAN'S SIDE

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