It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas (in November)


“We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It’s run by a big Eastern syndicate, you know.” ~ Lucy Van Pelt, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”

As autumn leaves give way to bare branches, here’s the question burning in brains: When is it legit to start listening to Christmas music?

I’m no expert, but I’ll tell you the answer: Whenever you feel like it.

Make no mistake: I’m as Grinch-y as the next guy about the appearance of plastic Christmas trees at big box stores in September. (I’m looking at you, Wal-mart.) The outfits that show more restraint deck their halls the day after Halloween. Retailers aren’t subtle—they want us to feel as panicked as soon as possible. The sooner we start panicking, the longer we have to spend. Complicating Christmas is the name of the game, and we’re the losers.

No wonder folks grow sick of Christmas, taking down their decorations on December 26. Some, I’m told, kick the whole ordeal to the curb and book a cruise.

The horror.

And yet, it’s semi-understandable. Ho-ho-ho and mistletoe and presents to pretty girls for sixty straight days does kind of make you want to sock someone. In the spirit of the season, of course.

If you’re personally moved, however, to crank up the Vince Guaraldi to drown out post Election Day chatter, I say have at it. It’s your party and you can jingle bell rock if you want to. If you’re the sort who wants to jump the gun on Christmas, welcome to the club!

A word of caution. Music is one thing. It doesn’t cost much in terms of cash or energy or psychological space. It’s one of the purest forms of Christmas joy—as in life, the best things in Christmas are free. But tread lightly, my friends, as there are distinct advantages to holding off on other aspects of the holiday (getting and spending and fussing and fixing)—the main perk being a less exhausted you come December 25. (More on this later.)

But a little fa-la-la-ing before the Thanksgiving leftovers are eaten? Let the carols commence. I’ll never tell.


Recommended pre-pre-Christmas music
(These albums aren’t that Christmas-y, meaning you won’t hear them on the radio or piped into The Gap’s sound system. Chances are, you’ll never get sick of ’em.)

  1. Dean Martin’s A Winter Romance
  2. A Waverly Consort Christmas: From East Anglia to Appalachia
  3. Sufjan Stevens’ Songs for Christmas
  4. Kate Rusby’s Sweet Bells
  5. Loreena McKennitt’s To Drive the Cold Winter Away

~ Laura


  1. Smiling here as I listen to “traditional Christmas music” in the background over our TV! I used to get disgusted with the early onset of Christmas, but no longer. I cheerfully embrace all the warmth, light, peace and joy that are carried along with memorable melodies and cheerful lyrics.

      1. Laura, how have we not talked about this one? Mercy–Philip and I survived on OTR Christmas of 2014. Can’t listen to it now without tears. SO beautiful.

  2. I may just have to purchase “Blood Oranges in the Snow” to add to Over the Rhine’s, “Snow Angels” which I have pulled out a little early this year. I don’t know that there’s anyone who does the ache of longing quite so well.

    1. Judy, I completely agree. The shadows in their songs are why the light breaks through so poignantly. “Blood Oranges” accomplishes this brilliantly, in my opinion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *