Arts & Entertainment, Music, Pop Rhetoric

Pop Dialectic: When should the most wonderful time of the year begin?

With Thanksgiving and Halloween behind us, the holiday season in Canada has officially begun. For some international students, though, American Thanksgiving will delay the onslaught of holiday music that has already found its way into grocery stores and Spotify playlists. This week, The McGill Tribune weighs in on one of our most contentious differences from our neighbours to the south—our holiday music timelines.

Anti-Canadian Christmas Hegemony — Michelle Siegel

As an international student coming to McGill from the United States, one of the first cultural differences I became aware of was the earlier Thanksgiving date: While Americans celebrate their nation’s colonial roots by tucking into turkey, potatoes, and stuffing on the last Thursday in November, Canadians celebrate the traditional harvest on the second Monday in October. As Thanksgiving and Halloween pass, October draws to a close and Canada rolls into the final two months of the year: “The Christmas season.” 

Despite Christmas being another eight weeks away, for some reason, November 1 is seen by many as the socially acceptable date to start decorating and playing Christmas music. And frankly, I hate it. Obviously, Canadian residents can’t change the date of a statutory holiday, but no one is forcing them to flood their Spotify playlists with Christmas music two months ahead of schedule.

Logistically, it does make sense that Christmas music takes up as much cultural space as it does, since there is a high volume of classic Christmas songs as well as a steady influx of new releases each year. There are almost no specifically recognizable Thanksgiving tunes, and while there are some classic Halloween jams, like “Monster Mash” and “Thriller,” they simply cannot hold a candle to the countless Christmas tunes that play for months on end.

Admittedly, I am not the biggest fan of Christmas music, but as I tell friends, family, and random strangers in grocery stores when they admonish me for it: I’m not a Grinch, just a Jew. Most Christmas music sounds homogenous, with a constant track of sleigh bells, repetitive melodies, and nearly identical lyrical content. Growing up in a predominantly Christian town, I always felt that Chanukah classics like “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” and The Chanukah Song deserved more recognition from my peers. We should not, as a society, be subjected to an infinite onslaught of sleigh bells when the musical stylings of Chanukah range from Adam Sandler’s acoustic guitar to the wide world of a cappella.

Pro-Canadian Holiday Discourse — Alaana Kumar, Student Life Editor 

From excluding the letter “u” to deciding that the metric system is beneath them, the United States tends to set its own rules. For a nation that refers to the holiday season as “the most wonderful time of the year,” they sure do jam-pack it into one stressful month. I adore the Canadian holiday schedule, as we give thanks in early October and are swiftly reminded to start Christmas shopping as soon as possible. With an earlier start to the festivities, the transition from fall to winter is much less jarring.

This year in particular, the juxtaposition from the dreariness of Halloween to the bright and colourful holiday festivities has been rather poetic. The album swap from Kim Petras’ Turn Off the Light to Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas has been a quintessential reminder that we’ve made it over the hump and 2020 will soon be over. Personally, I think it would be taxing to go into winter without Richard B. Smith reminding us that snow is glistening, and that it’s actually a beautiful, not foreboding, sight. 

In recent years, Christmas music has expanded far past the traditional carols and hymns, with numerous celebrities dabbling in the world of holiday albums and EPs. Last winter, Rolling Stone put out a list of 40 essential Christmas albums—and that’s not even scratching the surface of festive tunes available for listeners. It’s near impossible to bask in the full glory of all these holiday bops in only 25 days.

The Canadian holiday schedule leaves more room for stores and radios to play a variety of songs—including the Chanukah classics that deserve more recognition. Holiday music isn’t for everyone, but there is merit in diving beyond the classics and exploring the hidden gems of festively-themed albums.


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