Sunday, December 11, 2011

Do you hear what I hear? It's that time of year for Christmas songs.

Every year in the recent past, I've vowed to count just how many times I hear Christmas songs over the course of the season. The ubiquitous nature of holiday music definitely begs the question.

And this year, I decided to count.

My first taste of holiday music was served up on November 13, way before Thanksgiving. Between then and now, I've tried to count every Christmas song I've heard. And I'm sure I've heard more songs than I've written down.

I've stopped, stalk-still, more than once this holiday season, wherever I've happened to be, in order to make note of another Christmas song. I've stopped at the grocery store. At work. I've made note while listening to holiday hold music.

Long and short, I've heard at least 123 holiday songs since November 13.

That's 123 songs in 19 days. That's 6.47 Christmas songs every day. And there are two weeks to go until Christmas.

Frankly, I think my numbers are skewed a bit low.

Because the 123 total thus far doesn't take into account that I've seen The Nutcracker twice this season. I figured I sought those songs out, so it wasn't an organic reflection of what I'd normally hear just by going about my day.

I didn't add the songs I sing or whistle during those colorful moments when I'm drenched in the Christmas spirit.

Everything might nicely be balanced if it's taken into consideration that I don't watch television or listen to conventional radio. I'm sure my 123 would go up considerably if I'd been logging holiday ads and Christmas specials into my total.

I'm obviously not a conventional retail shopper, but apparently the presence of Christmas songs in a retail environment boosts sales figures. And interestingly, people seem to want it that way. According to music research experts, "a remarkable 95 percent of consumers said they prefer shopping with in-store (Christmas) music. Among this group, four out of 10 prefer to shop where Christmas music is playing rather than music they already know and like."

Despite the anti-consumerism direction I could go with that information, I prefer to refer to the three reasons why people like to hear Christmas music this time of year, according to the article.

First, Christmas music is emotionally evocative. It reminds us of time happily spent with loved ones.

Second, listening to a Christmas song is "a mass-karaoke experience... with 53 percent of respondents saying that they often sing along to Christmas songs."

Guilty as charged, as I mentioned before. No other time of year are people like myself prone to breaking into a Christmas song, either by singing along with the holiday Muzak or by quietly whistling Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas just because it feels good.

Third, Christmas music is unifying. Everyone knows the words to White Christmas, and there's a cultural understanding that we all get it. There seem to be few things we collectively get any more, but knowing the words and feeling the sentiment of a holiday song seems to compel us as a culture to feel like we're all in this together.

Stop the presses - I need to update my Christmas music tally of 123.

I've been listening to Christmas music while I've been writing this, and I'll be adding 18 more songs to my total. The first song out of the gate tonight was perfect for the tenor of my kind of holiday: Nancy Wilson's That's What I Want for Christmas.

I'm grateful for being loved. That's all I need or want.

So I've heard 141 Christmas songs so far this season. Rum-pa-pum-pum.

Enjoy the music.

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