Shortly after the last trick-or-treaters have rung the doorbell, and I am groggily dealing with my post-sugar high, I am ready to turn the page. I am ready for…The Holidays. I wonder how soon I can put up the lights on my house without being considered “that house.” I slowly start pulling out holiday decorations and perusing cookie recipes. I start gift shopping in earnest. And I turn on the Christmas music.
I know, I know, early November is probably a little early to start hanging the garland and tinsel. Just get through one holiday at a time, you say. I understand all these points. But why not spread out the holiday cheer for a few extra weeks? And why does one holiday have to be celebrated to the exclusion of another one?
I feel that I should be clear at the outset. My affinity for the Christmas holiday is for strictly secular reasons. As a person of non-Christian faith (with a Christian background, nonetheless), I observe the Christmas holiday not for the birth of Jesus, but as a celebration of family, love, and hope. And one of my favorite ways to celebrate the season is by listening to Christmas music. Whether a rousing rendition of Oh, Come All Ye Faithful or a bouncy version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I love them all. Jingle Bells, Silent Night, O Holy Night, you name it, I love it.
Not everyone feels this way, however. My husband has already rolled his eyes a number of times when he walks in the door at night to hear the voices of holiday crooners. There are many holiday traditionalists who believe that Christmas music should only be played in the short stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas, or even just the few days leading up to Christmas. And others with more refined musical taste will scream “Bah Humbug!” upon hearing just a few verses of Bing Crosby singing I’ll be Home for Christmas.
But for me and for thousands of others – as evidenced by the fact that national radio stations have begun making the switch to all-Christmas-music-all-the-time around mid-November – Christmas music is a welcome sign of the season. Maybe it’s the cozy, nostalgic feelings of childhood innocence that Christmas music evokes. Maybe it’s because holiday music is only appropriate for a short time of the year. Or maybe I enjoy holiday tunes so much just because they are a sharp departure from my typical musical tastes. Whatever the reason, Christmas music just makes me happy.
Fortunately, my kids are huge fans of holiday melodies, as well, and according to Parents as Teachers National Center, Christmas music can actually promote learning, physical fitness, and family bonding. Double bonus.
Not only does Christmas music make me happy, but recent research also shows that music has a number of health benefits as well. Listening to calming music, like holiday tunes, can lower blood pressure, reduce stress and tension, and ease pain. One study even showed that listening to harp music during chemotherapy eased the pain of cancer patients and relieved anxiety associated with the treatment. Music has also been shown to help reduce post-surgical stress and pain, to reduce symptoms of depression in elderly people, and to aid children who are developmentally delayed by enhancing hand-eye coordination.
For me and for many others, Christmas music calms the mind, body, and soul. Christmas music distracts us from our daily stresses and transports us to a magical place where Santa Claus rules the day, reindeer fly, and Dean Martin dances in a Marshmallow World. Holiday music elevates the mood by fostering feelings of hopeful anticipation. And it energizes by stimulating the production of feel-good endorphins.
So, turn up the radio, download a few holiday songs on iTunes, or pop in your favorite holiday CD. And, by all means, sing along. Loudly. Bliss out to the sappy, tacky, and delightful sounds of the holidays.
And if you’re someone who says “bah humbug” to the holiday tunes, don’t worry. It will all be over in just a few short weeks.