It’s not even Thanksgiving and many radio stations across the country have already begun playing Christmas music. While we all enjoy music that makes it feel like the holiday season is upon us, a lot of us are probably wondering why radio stations start Christmas tunes so early.
The answer is simple: the increased ratings that stations receive from playing Christmas music.
It's been exacerbated by COVID-19, which saw many radio stations take significant rating hits as fewer people listened to the radio because they were staying home.
This continued commercialization of Christmas and other holidays around this time has become more obvious, as it seems like the decorations and music are being put up even earlier every year. Some radio stations have even started playing Christmas music in late September.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with radio stations playing Christmas music starting in early November, it does continue a wider trend of commercializing the holiday — a trend dating back over two centuries. It might actually be the reason for Christmas’ popularity, at least in its modern form.
Initially, merchants in the 19th century and prior didn’t like holidays — as they usually entailed widespread drinking, which meant workers didn't do their jobs. Christmas was no different.
However, businesses soon realized the holidays had a lot of profit potential, which caused them to decorate their stores to attract customers. There were also changes to Christmas symbolism, like getting rid of Santa Claus' judgemental facial expression (he was previously portrayed as punishing naughty children by whipping them with switches).
Changing Santa Claus to being a jolly gift-giver to children also benefited companies because they could guilt parents into purchasing toys and other goods. Parents wouldn’t want to give their kids the impression they’ve been bad and don't want to be seen as bad parents.
All of these changes made Christmas more secular to enable non-Christians to participate in the holiday — and so that they would be willing to spend money on gifts.
It also grew Christmas’s popularity in America. Prior to the mid 19th century, the holiday wasn’t widely celebrated across the country, and it was even banned by the Puritans during the 17th and 18th centuries.
While gift-giving shows you care for your loved ones and all of us enjoy receiving free stuff, there comes a point where we are worrying too much about the commercial aspects of Christmas, even if the holiday grew because of those aspects.
Everyone is so worried about what presents to buy or what we’ll receive from others that we’ve lost sight of just spending quality time with our loved ones. Or, if you’re a Christian, the religious background of the holiday.
This is also reflected in Thanksgiving, which is meant to celebrate gratitude and being thankful for what we have. Yet, the day after, many use it as a way to get their hands on some discounted consumer goods during Black Friday sales, which has even resulted in deaths among shoppers.
The contradiction between what Thanksgiving and Christmas are supposed to represent and how we actually celebrate them shows despite good intentions regarding gift-giving, our materialistic side has a strong effect on our perceptions of the holiday season.
While it’s impossible to separate Christmas and spending money on gifts, we need to remind ourselves material goods aren’t everything, and shouldn’t be your main priority for the holiday season.
Instead, cherish the family and friends you have. Spend quality time with them rather than just being a formality you go through each year.
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