Monday I was surprised to see that “Christmas” was trending on Twitter, and substantially so, but in retrospect I don't know why I was surprised. It seems like there used to be a few weeks of (dare I say it) normality between Halloween and Thanksgiving, and then the holidays, but no longer. For God's sakes, the World Series ended less than 48 hours ago.
I blame the Internet, more specifically Twitter, for creating a vacuum that must be filled with something, and thus providing a platform for people to share such seasonally appropriate and yet irrelevant morsels of information such as the following:
Being the Internet, some of those could be sarcastic, but it doesn't really matter. There's plenty more where that came from. Also Monday, Music Choice — provider of the genre-discrete, music-only channels available in the upper reaches of many cable systems such as AT&T U-verse — announced that “Starting today [Monday], Sounds of the Seasons will flip its format to traditional nonstop holiday music through January 12, 2016.” Three more sensible channels, Soft Rock, R&B/Soul and the Latin-tinged Romances, go all-holiday the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally the date Houston's Sunny 99.1 flips on its Christmas lights.
This rush to dive into the holidays seems to come earlier every year; last weekend I saw Christmas decorations creeping into the Halloween displays at H-E-B. At least Sunny, billed as "Houston's Best Variety" the rest of the year, has thus far held off on starting its holiday-music marathon, although parent company IHeartMedia's holiday channels are already streaming on Sunny's Web site. But never mind these next few weeks; doesn't extending these “Sounds of the Season” into mid-January seem like the musical equivalent of not putting your Christmas tree away after New Year's Day? Time to haul it down to the curb or stow it back in the attic already.
My email inbox is already crammed with announcements of holiday-themed albums by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings — Okay, that's one I would actually be glad to listen to — the Brian Setzer Orchestra, the Braxton family, LeAnn Rimes, Alligator Records' A Blues Christmas, classical/pop crossover act the Sons of Serindip, one of the Wiggles, a “holiday supergroup” known as Band of Merrymakers and a blanket message from Universal advertising this year's crop of seasonal reissues, everything from Alvin & the Chipmunks' Chipmunks Christmas to Eazy-E's “Merry Mutha****** Xmas” on 7-inch red vinyl. The earliest of these electronic communiqués is dated September 8.
Enough. Sorry, but the transition from “Thriller” and “Monster Mash” to chestnuts roasting on an open fire seems a little jarring, not least because it is Houston, Texas, and afternoon temperatures are only now reaching the relatively frigid middle seventies. Now, I am no Grinch. I like plenty of Christmas music, from old standards like “O Come All Ye Faithful” and the “Sleigh Ride” to Run-DMC's "Christmas In Hollis," the Ramones' "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight") and the Waitresses' “Christmas Wrapping.”
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Christmas has also inspired some of the past century's greatest artists — Nat King Cole, Brenda Lee, Bruce Springsteen, Robert Earl Keen — to do some of their very finest work. The holiday is also responsible for a few moments of of true musical greatness, like Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas sound track, Darlene Love's “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and (don't tell anyone) Band Aid's “Do They Know It's Christmas.” The one with Duran Duran, Wham! and Boy George, not One Direction and Ed Sheeran.
Naturally, this seasonal mania is driven mostly by advertisers and retailers — whether Target, Amazon or Universal Music — who are just trying to fatten up their year-end bottom lines; nothing new or revolutionary about that. But the whole thing has never seemed so...accelerated. Like the Byrds (and the Bible) once said, to everything there is a season, but nowadays it seems like the seasons are all getting squished together to the point where it's getting hard to tell them apart.
It seems like it would be hard to celebrate any season if it's hard to tell exactly which season we're supposed to be celebrating. In Texas, it's hard enough to tell the difference between seasons as it is — or any season besides “hot” and “slightly less hot,” anyway. Lack of Daylight Saving Time notwithstanding, the days until Christmas are not actually getting any shorter, so if the record labels, networks and most of all the Internet are going to start throwing all this Christmas content at us this early, it's going to make the time until Christmas actually comes seem that much longer.
On the other hand, at least Miramax Pictures is finally getting around to making Bad Santa 2. But still, why is it suddenly so hard to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to start roasting those chestnuts? Wouldn't we all be much happier if we could wait a few more weeks?