Christmas music is a powerful thing. Hearing it at any other time of year feels wrong, like wearing your underwear backwards or putting sunglasses on a dog. But hearing it during the holiday season can be glorious, creating a Pavlovian response that sometimes makes even the most Scrooge-like of figures feel a little warmer inside.
Recently, however, an extra element has been added to the Christmas music world. Spend more than 20 minutes in a shopping mall and you’ll undoubtedly hear Wham!’s “Last Christmas,” one of the most ubiquitous festive tunes. Why it is played so much is, of course, incredibly obvious to anyone with two ears and a heart: It is a yuletide masterpiece (even though it doesn’t have much to do with Christmas at all).
But “Last Christmas” is now the centerpiece of a growing holiday tradition based around ... not listening to it. It’s a game called Whamageddon, which involves trying to avoid hearing the song from December 1 to Christmas itself, and is often easier said than done. Covers are fine, but the original song—which George Michael wrote in his childhood bedroom—is to be avoided at all costs. Once you hear it, you are “sent to Whamhalla” and encouraged to share your defeat on social media with the hashtag #whamageddon.
Whamageddon began as a gag in an online forum back in 2010, and existed as a small thing for a few years. But since 2020 or so, it has exploded in popularity.
“I don’t think a game like this could exist without social media,” Thomas Mertz, who runs the closest Whamageddon has to an official website (i.e. it sells mugs) told NBC News. “It’s not so much about winning as much as it is about being in a shared experience.”
Players take it seriously enough that people who play music for a living have to watch what they play. Earlier this month, a soccer stadium DJ in England thought it would be funny to give the tune a spin and ended up facing a barrage of criticism. “I gave it a spin, thinking it would be quite funny to wipe out 7000 people who couldn’t avoid it, but clearly it isn’t funny,” DJ Matty of League One club Northampton Town told the BBC. “I officially apologize to everybody whose Christmas I've ruined."
One thing worth bearing in mind, however, is that the royalties from “Last Christmas" go to charity. When the song was first released in 1984, it was vying for the Christmas Number One spot with Band Aid’s Ethiopian famine relief charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?“ (which George Michael also sang on). Wham! donated their royalties to the same charity. When “Last Christmas“ finally hit the Number One spot in 2020 (before Whamageddon really took hold), Michael’s estate issued a statement saying how grateful they were to be able to continue supporting charities close to his heart.
What if you want to play the game but also support charitable causes? Cover versions still pay royalties. And, come midnight on December 24, all bets are off. Blast the absolute hell out of Wham! all through Christmas Day and guarantee the happiest holidays ever. George bless us, every one.