Settling the Christmas Music Debate


Trini Feng

It’s the holiday season again: the time of year when the gift-shopping frenzy takes off, when we get out of one break from school and are so close but so far to the other one just a few weeks away, when we’re probably supposed to wear coats but not all of us—including myself—do. This is supposed to be a season of unity as we reunite with family and give thanks. For the most part, it is. But a certain debate is divisive enough to split us all apart: when exactly is it socially acceptable to start playing Christmas music?

This is an incredibly important issue, and it plays a central role in all of our lives. Whenever you’ve stepped into a store for the last month and for the next, whenever you pass around the AUX cord or debate what to play on Spotify—all of those times, this matters. So we need a few ground rules, a clear presentation of our options. There are countless of them: some might say always and others might say never. According to a 2017 poll done by Bustle, 12% fall in the first camp while 2% voted the second choice. There’s also the true neutral choice of December 1st, a constant every year that is close enough to Christmas that few would really argue to exclude it. Mainly, though, the debate is caught between two choices: November 1st, the day after Halloween, or the day after Thanksgiving.

Bustle’s poll has a clear winner. 52% agree on “after Thanksgiving”, while just 26% voted for November 1st. Other polls reveal a similar trend. Florida State University conducted its own poll in 2021 with a sample size of 60 students, where 25 people voted for after Halloween, 27 people voted for after Thanksgiving, and eight people chose after December.

Despite the similar trend, yes, it is still a debate. The margins are too close for a general consensus, but for the most part, “after Thanksgiving” seems to lead. But this leads to another interesting question: what about countries that don’t celebrate Thanksgiving? Christmas is practically a universal holiday, but Thanksgiving is less so. What do other countries say about Christmas music?

First off, there are other holidays that begin the Christmas season around the world. Namely, there’s Advent (also called First Advent), celebrated usually in western European countries like Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Starting as a Christian holiday, the day essentially celebrates the beginning of the Christmas season. This is also where Advent calendars got their start. Naturally, people in these countries typically view Advent as the official beginning of Christmas music. Advent also tends to fall around our American Thanksgiving, usually the Sunday after our Thanksgiving and four weeks before Christmas, so in this way, we have similar benchmarks.

More than that, different countries simply have different trends with Christmas music. Spotify streaming trends show that Americans typically wait until after Thanksgiving (again showing a possible trend—but it definitely isn’t enough to declare one opinion the “winner”), while the Philippines listen to Christmas music as early in September and Liechtenstein “binges” Christmas songs on the day itself.

In the end, there are so many possibilities for a reason. The suitable time for Christmas music is really just determined by your own personal taste, culture, and lifestyle. Maybe you don’t care much for Thanksgiving and just want to move on to Christmas, and that’s great! Play your heart out with Michael Buble and Mariah Carey. Or maybe you’ve sworn off holiday music entirely; in which case, I wish you luck in these next few weeks. In my case, I’m somewhere in the middle. Personally, I want to give each holiday some time. That means after Halloween begins the Thanksgiving season, and after Thanksgiving is the Christmas season. But I wouldn’t say no to early Christmas songs, either. Whatever the case, Christmas is a widely celebrated holiday, both in this country and all over the world. It’d be impossible to decide on one specific date to start playing Christmas music, no matter how many polls or stats I can try to analyze.