If you want to blame anyone, then blame Dolly Parton. The musical icon dropped the eponymous song for Netflix’s Christmas On The Square months ago, and I couldn’t resist giving it a listen. And then another listen. And then (ahem) adding it to my homebrewed ‘It’s Christmas Time’ Spotify playlist, spending whole hours making sure I hadn’t forgotten to add any other festive gems, and listening to the entire playlist in all its magical, feel-good glory.
On repeat. Forever.
As such, my experience of lockdown 2.0 has been scored by the likes of Mariah Carey, Eartha Kitt, and Kermit the Frog (The Muppet Christmas Carol is full of absolute bangers, and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise). Which means that… well, it means that it’s been a far more joyful experience than the first coronavirus lockdown.
Sure, there has been the odd tear – especially when Kelly Clarkson reminds me that I might not be meeting my loved ones underneath the tree, if Boris Johnson doesn’t release us from our solitude in time for the 25 December. Sure, my very patient boyfriend has rolled his eyes extravagantly whenever he’s walked in on me crooning tunelessly along to the 12 Days Of Christmas (“It’s November, Kayleigh!”). And sure, I’ve had the occasional cold sweat-worthy flashback to all those years I worked in retail.
But you know what? It’s made me feel hopeful again. It has reminded me, too, of the goodness that can be found in others. Of the importance of friendship and family. Of the little ways we can make every day feel like Christmas, damn it (thanks again, Kermit and co).
Stylist’s junior digital writer, Lauren Geall, thoroughly disagrees with me, of course. And that’s in spite of the fact she’s been painstakingly reporting on this year’s Christmas adverts since the first one dropped weeks ago.
“It’s just too early,” she says simply. “I didn’t always feel like this, but I’ve learnt from experience that listening to Christmas music in early November inevitably leads to a sense of festive burnout by the time things really get underway. For me, 1 December is the day when things really kick off – and by holding myself out just those few extra weeks, I’m able to go all out when Christmas finally comes to town.”
Even Stylist’s very own Buddy the Elf (aka Megan Murray, the same woman I once watched drape dozens of handmade paper snowflakes over her desk) shakes her head over my fondness for an autumnal festive boogie.
“I absolutely love Christmas music and it’s not that I don’t want to listen to it before December,” she begins kindly, “but I think I appreciate it more when everything around me feels as festive as I feel.”
Ignoring my aggrieved expression (et tu, Brute?), Megan continues: “Walking through Covent Garden to see the biggest Christmas tree in London covered in twinkling lights with Maria Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You is heaven, so to make sure my first jingle feels peak-Christmas I like to wait until everything else has caught up.”
Annoyingly, some 64% of people insisting Christmas music should never be played before 1 December (Scrooges, every last one of them). And, for a short while, I feel defeated: maybe I’m the one in the wrong here?
But then I pull myself together. Because, yeah, 64% of people might think that, but that doesn’t mean that the other 46% are wrong. And, as it turns out, I’m not alone in treating my ears to a festive feast.
“Firstly, let’s all just admit that most Christmas songs – even the bad ones – are total bangers,” says Stylist’s digital writer Hollie Richardson (I knew I could count on my fellow West End musical obsessee). “And they are particularly poignant in 2020. I listened to Thankful Heart from The Muppet Christmas Carol quite a few times during the first lockdown in spring, because it reminds me of family, friends and everything I have to be thankful for.”
Hollie (who readily admits that she ate an actual candy-cane the other day) adds: “Everything that the festive season is about – love, giving, sharing, caring – are all the things getting us through this pandemic, so of course it makes sense to listen to Christmas music earlier this year.
“Also, I’m thinking of Christmas a lot earlier because I need to make various plans for ‘just in case’. So that’s why I’ve already plugged into Wham’s Last Christmas and Judy Garland’s Merry Little Christmas, with a tear in my eye and a fuzzy feeling in my tummy.”
Stylist’s social media editor, Alyss Bowen, is every bit as into the early musical festivities as I am, too.
“I LOVE CHRISTMAS MUSIC SO MUCH,” she says, popping into my DMs unexpectedly. “I think it’s because it reminds me of Christmas films and feeling festive. And like, who doesn’t want to dance around a tree listening to Jingle Bells?”
This! Exactly this! And if three’s a crowd, four’s definitely a trend, because Meriam Ahari (aka Stylist’s fitness editor) suddenly announces that she’s geared up to help me defend my love of Christmas music, too.
“Christmas is my absolute favourite time of the year and nothing brings me more joy than Christmas carols,” she tells me with shining eyes. “In fact, I have curated what I believe is the world’s most essential and complete Spotify playlist of all the best Christmas carols – so you can probably guess my stance on how much is too much.”
That’s right, folks: she’s another early Christmas playlist creator. Ho ho ho!
“Forget counting down the days to Christmas, I’ve always counted down the days until I’m allowed to play carols – on repeat – without annoying my office mates or family,” Meriam continues. “Just this week, I actually Googled ‘when is it socially acceptable to start playing Christmas music?’, hoping that I would find an updated answer stating ‘the day after Thanksgiving in America’ is so last season.
“I never tire of hearing them too soon or on loop. Christmas is the happiest time of the year and it goes by too fast, so I like to draw out the fuzzy feelings for as long as possible. Plus, it brings me so much joy and nostalgia, and I think we could all use some merriness in our lives – especially right now.”
Meriam’s hit the nail on the head here, as several scientific studies have shown that uplifting Christmas music has been known to have a positive effect both physically and psychologically.
These studies, reports Narcity, have found that “the feeling associated when listening to music can be sorted into two categories, perceived emotions (when we appreciate the emotional tone of the piece, but not feel that emotion ourselves) and felt emotions.
“Felt emotions are when we connect to the feeling behind the piece we are listening to and it can impact our emotional state.”
Throw in the fact that music has a strong tie to nostalgia, and you have a recipe for something that’s guaranteed to make you feel warm and fuzzy. Because, yeah, you better believe that part of a Christmas song’s magic is the wonderful memories it triggers in our mind’s eye.
Of course, I completely get that nonstop Christmas music isn’t for everyone (apparently it can trigger the stress of shopping, cooking, cleaning, and interacting with your in-laws, according to some psychologists).
But you know what? If you’re as into it as Hollie, Alyss, Meriam and myself, then I 100% recommend breaking the rules, sticking on a festive banger or two this week, and having yourself a merry extended Christmas.
Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m off to reacquaint myself with the lyrics to Feliz Navidad.