Jingle Bells in November

Is Christmas music really an early scourge on the airwaves?


Laura Madler

It’s November- and you know what that means.

Laura Madler, Editor-in-Chief

The last trick-or-treater is tucked into bed. 

The pumpkins no longer aglow,

And what can be heard, but the jingling of bells

Twinkling out from the radio-

When the clock strikes midnight on Halloween night, disk jockeys across the country swap out their records, ushering in the season of non-stop Christmas music on the airwaves.

Each year, critics rage against the holly jolly onslaught. Some claim the music represents the extension and over-commercialization of the Christmas holiday, others claim it can cause a deterioration in mental health. If there’s one thing that all the fa la la la- fault-finders have in common, it’s the belief that this Christmas racket starts earlier and earlier every year.

But does it, though?

With the exception of a few- like Ohio’s Z104, which was the first radio station to flip on October 25– most radio stations hold off on the holiday tunes until at least November 1st, with a majority in the country waiting until December 1st. Modern streaming services like Spotify may offer seasonal selections year-round, yet their curated Christmas playlists are only prominently featured after Halloween. November is lumped in as a sort of transition to the holiday season, but is this a new phenomenon in music history?.

Well, take a look at the release dates of these classic Christmas albums:

Laura Madler
It’s not uncommon for Christmas music to be released well before the holidays.
  • “A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra” by Frank Sinatra- September 21, 1957
  • “Elvis’ Christmas Album” by Elvis- October 15, 1957
  • “The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album” by the Beach Boys- November 9, 1964
  • “Christmas Portrait” by the Carpenters- October 13, 1978
  • “Christmas” by Manheim Steamroller- September 15, 1984
  • “Merry Christmas” by Mariah Carey- November 1, 1994
  • “Miracles: The Holiday Album” by Kenny G- November 22, 1994
  • “Christmas” by Michael Bublé- October 24, 2011

Releasing Christmas music early is nothing new. In the days of physical albums, an artist needed the months before Christmas for their album to gain traction on the charts and time on the airwaves. Subsequently, it was not uncommon to see holiday releases starting as early as September. What has changed, however, is the way radio approaches their holiday repertoire.

Radio stations in the 20th century did not create Christmas-only playlists. Instead, holly jolly favorites were mixed in with the regular stock of music until the days leading up to Christmas, when stations would switch to an all-holiday lineup. The all-Christmas, all-the-time practice was only really adopted by radio stations post-2000. A November 1st start date came into prominence around the mid-2000s with some novelty stations, yet most across the country start no earlier than December 1st.

So, is Christmas music annually taking over more of our listening time? Not really.

Sure, things have changed since 1960, but the advance of holiday music earlier in the year has been halted for at least 10 years now. In more recent years, stations have even responded to criticism by pushing their start-dates closer to December 25th.

The Christmas music season has always had a jump start on the holiday, we only notice a change depending on how we listen to music- if through streaming, radio, or a good old-fashioned vinyl record.