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Christmas music is back again. Why does it keep returning?

Christmas music seems to be an ever-present monolith in our life the moment Halloween is over and not even COVID-19 can kill our obsession with the seasonal songs. Why on Earth do we instantly become enthralled with Christmas music after spooky time when a large swath of Christmas music isn’t even that good? 

A simple answer might be that there is no Thanksgiving music which you would be right in saying so. I can’t name any Thanksgiving songs whatsoever. A quick Google search only brings up songs written for small children, explicitly religious music, songs repurposed as a Thanksgiving song, or songs by big-name artists that I know but have never heard the song, including names like Johnny Cash and Sister Sledge. I suppose it’s good that we don’t have a plethora of songs about white colonizers taking advantage of indigenous Americans that end up distorting the reality of that situation. The other side of this coin is also the fact that there’s no true Halloween music. Sure, there’s definitely spooky music or music that is traditionally associated with Halloween such as the infamous Toccata and Fugue in D minor on the organ by Johann Sebastian Bach, but as far as music specifically written for Halloween, we have various film tracks. None of these have taken off quite like our favorite Christmas tunes. 

Of course, Christmas tunes are not wholly uniform. Different people might like them for different reasons. The most obvious connective tissue between different people for Christmas music is purely happy memories. Singing their favorite Christmas songs can bring them that warm happy feeling when they are missing home. Of course, this positive atmosphere to Christmas music is entirely dependent on one’s individual experience. For some people, Christmas may bring negative memories due to family conflict. It’s important to remember this when someone chides the incessant barrage of Christmas music during the holiday season. Another facet of this argument is that some people dislike Christmas music because of other people’s disregard for non-Christian holidays. Christmas certainly dominates the American holiday season often to the point of militarization by those who claim a “war on Christmas” even though those people are the only ones on the attack, fearing the discourse on holiday celebrations will take from their own holiday experience which is, of course, ridiculous. 

Additionally, many people appreciate Christmas music on an aesthetic level. Because of the prevalence throughout modern history of Christmas music and its place in society, there is much to be said musically on the topic of Christmas time. From an educational standpoint, music written from an artistic perspective rather than a commercial one celebrating Christmas and its themes offer considerable variety. For the holiday season in general, educators also have a wide plethora of music written about Hanukkah or even solstice themes and this can create diversity of ideas in education. 

There’s nothing inherently good or bad about Christmas music. However, it will serve everyone better this season to realize the nuances of the discussion around Christmas music. Discussion about music can sometimes be difficult due to a lack of appropriate language, but difficult discussions ultimately make us more well-rounded human beings. Happy listening! 

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