While some people still haven't gotten around to taking down their Halloween decorations, stores and radio stations around the country are already blaring Christmas music. Magic 107.7 in Orlando announced it will begin its holiday programming on November 5 in 2021—a full 50 days before Christmas. If Mariah Carey has her way, the Christmas season will begin even earlier. The unofficial Queen of Christmas tweeted a video that shows her smashing pumpkins to mark the end of October and the start of the holidays. But not everyone is welcoming the seasonal soundtrack with open ears.
If the opening notes of "Jingle Bells" fill you with dread, you're not alone: A significant portion of shoppers find the seasonal soundtrack grating, and hearing it too early may be taking a toll on your mental health. According to clinical psychologist Linda Blair, people who already find the holidays stressful could be triggered when holiday music creeps into early November. "It's a reminder that we have to buy presents, cater for people, organize celebrations," she told Sky News in 2017. "Some people will react to that by making impulse purchases, which the retailer likes. Others might just walk out of the shop. It's a risk."
This may sound like a no-brainer to anyone who's in touch with their inner Grinch, and past research backs up the claims. In a 2011 Consumer Reports survey of more than 1000 people, 23 percent of respondents cited seasonal music as the thing they dread most about the holidays, placing it above holiday parties and disappointing gifts. A Research Intelligence Group poll from 2014 [PDF] found that holiday music can be so bothersome that 36 percent of people have admitted to leaving a store because of it.
For many revelers, holiday music straddles a thin line between comforting and annoying. If seasonal songs have you humming along rather than plugging your ears, it may have something to do with the "mere exposure effect"—a psychological phenomenon where people tend to enjoy things they're familiar with. But at a certain point this effect wears off, with some songs becoming so familiar that they're no longer pleasant to listen to.
Of course that's not the case for everyone. The holidays are a happy time of year for many people, and seasonal music and decorations are a reminder of that. If that applies to you, feel free to start blasting your favorite Christmas tunes before Thanksgiving. (You may just want to keep it at a low enough volume that you don't annoy your neighbors.)
A version of this story ran in 2018; it has been updated for 2021.