In a world where pumpkin spice lattes become readily available in August, and where you’ll catch Christmas tree silhouettes through people’s windows as soon as Halloween is over, you sort of have to accept the fact that the holiday season starts weeks, even months, before the calendar actually gets there. Granted, I think we could all use a bit of holiday cheer as early as possible, considering 2017 was a doozy of a year, but have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you hate Christmas music so much by the time you’re actually wrapping and unwrapping presents? It’s probably not because you’re a major Grinch, so don’t panic that your heart’s about to shrink three sizes too small. The truth of the matter is that Christmastime is here way before Thanksgiving even has a chance to shine, so when Christmas morning comes, you’re so over Rudolph and his reindeer games.
And, I don’t know about you, but all I want for Christmas is to listen to the season’s celebratory carols without automatically rolling my eyes at them come mid-December. It’s not that listening to Christmas music in November is necessarily a major faux-pas, but our favorite radio stations and Spotify playlists repeatedly replaying these festive tunes can kill your vibes as quickly as they induce them.
The solution, it would seem, is simple, right? Just avoid holiday music at all costs until at least Dec. 1, and you should be fine to enjoy Christmas karaoke all month long without having to check into holiday-tune rehab. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple.
Come Nov. 1, Christmas music is almost unavoidable, especially for retail workers.
When you haven’t listened to holiday music in months, there’s no denying that the first time you hear the twinkling introduction of Mariah Carey’s "All I Way For Christmas Is You" on the radio is cause for celebration in and of itself. Sleigh bells and the familiar “ho, ho, ho” of Santa Claus on your favorite modernized tracks are sure to ignite all the warm and fuzzy, nostalgic feels before you turn off the celebratory soundbite and head into work.
The reason why you can still enjoy hearing a Christmas tune or two when you come out of your cubicle office job is because, as soon as you enter the building, holiday seems to come to a halt. For retail workers, though, Christmas starts on Nov. 1, and doesn't end until January.
According to clinical psychologist Linda Blair, these workers have to make a hard, conscious effort to drown out the sound of Christmas music, or they'll go insane. "If they don't, it really does stop you from being able to focus on anything else," Blair told Sky News. "You're simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you're hearing."
Retail workers have a love-hate relationship with Christmas music. For those who observe the holiday, hearing all about Frosty the Snowman’s shenanigans and Burl Ives wishing everyone a holly jolly Christmas is probably lovely the first 20 times, but what you have to understand about retail establishments is that they aren’t playing FM radio through their sound system. The soundtrack you hear in any given store is a playlist of sorts, and while you come and go after a purchase, workers are stuck listening to the same 10 songs over and over again all day, every day.
Christmas music or not, though, any song on repeat is bound to drive you mad.
When a song clicks with my soul, I’ll have it on repeat for weeks, and this is especially true for Christmas music. I have separate Spotify and YouTube playlists dedicated to holiday tracks, and I listen to the Rascal Flatts rendition of "I’ll Be Home For Christmas" and Faith Hill’s "Where Are You Christmas" at least three to four times a day if I’m feeling particularly jolly.
And, let’s be real, we all have our jams. When we enjoy a song, it’s normal to want to hear it over and over again. Eventually, though, the music starts to sound stale, and passionate singalongs become robotic karaoke sessions. Even so, you cannot, for the life of you, get the tune out of your head.
This, my friends, is called an earworm, and according to a 2016 study published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, an estimated 90 percent of us will experience an earworm at least once a week. Catchy tunes stick out to us. They wiggle inside our brains, make themselves comfy, and before we can even register the habit, we’re humming their tune without actual music to guide us.
Earworms are annoying AF, but the good news is, they're temporary.
Earworms are a mental enigma, not a physical ailment. It would be super convenient if we could all just tug on our earlobes and watch alphabet soup letters fall out to free us from this miserable, repetitive state of mind. Unfortunately, though, life is not a Taylor Swift music video, and we cannot literally shake this off.
We can, however, distract ourselves from the songs stuck in our brains. Psychologist Vicky Williamson spoke to NPR about her experience collecting and curing earworms. According to Williamson, her patients have come up with a wide — albeit, unique — range of methods to stop this madness, such as singing another song, going for a run, or doing a crossword puzzle.
"[The songs used to combat earworms] tend to be slow," she said. "Which is an interesting characteristic. Some people think that the British national anthem sung quite slow is good for getting rid of earworms."
So if you feel like a Scrooge this season because Christmas tunes won't get out of your head, you're not alone. To ensure you still have yourself a merry little Christmas, hold off on the holiday soundtrack if you can help it. Christmas earworms are bound to spoil the joy you feel when festive songs play on the radio, so I highly advise you limit your listening — for now, anyway.