Holiday Media Equals Humbug

by Brad Matthews ‘11


As November comes to a close, the holiday season, dormant from New Years to Thanksgiving, once again starts up, bringing holiday cheer and pomp. One yearly icon of the holiday season is the conversion of some radio stations to holiday music stations; 97.1 WASH FM started playing its holiday playlist on November 19, and Baltimore’s 101.9 FM started its holiday programs soon after. Christmas may come at the end of December, but the holiday season starts earlier, each and every year.

On the business side of things, it is easy to see the ulterior motives behind the modus operandi of these crass hucksters. Media stations, retailers and other businesses all see a spike in revenue thanks to the holidays. More people listen to WASH during the holidays than any other time of the year, and it therefore behooves them to play their litany of holiday favorites.

However, the music, after a while, stops being nostalgic and fun. The classics you want to hear become buried under the avalanche of jingle bombs; for every Snoopy or “Feliz Navidad “or “God Bless Ye Merry Gentlemen,” there is Christmas Shoes or the two overplayed versions of “O Holy Night.” The classic songs of my parents’ childhoods have been replaced by annoying remakes, which destroy the old-time sound that made them so special. Christmas pop ruins the zeitgeist of the holidays; Mariah Carey can’t hold a Hannukah candle to Burl Ives or Bing Crosby. The holiday season is supposed to be special, but saturation kills that feeling; I know that by the time Christmas rolls around, I’d rather have a stocking full of coal and eat fruitcake than hear another wretched, saccharine carol. The same few songs are played over and over again; variety is hard to find on Christmas radio. The logs on the fire do not fill me with desire, but rather with ire.

How are we supposed to enjoy any holiday if all the media does is shove it down our throats? Christmas is an entire month after Thanksgiving; it would be far more enjoyable if Christmas music started on two weeks before Christmas and ended on New Years. Christmas carols and corny pop songs are supposed to bring back cheer after a long year, ushering in the snow and fun of the holidays. Instead, they become insipid quite quickly, becoming humbug and coal rather than mistletoe.

And the visual media is just as erroneous as the radio. ABC Family plays TV specials the entire month of December, and even has a COUNTDOWN to 25 long days of Christmas programming. One marathon could cover all the greats, but instead they wipe out an entire month in order to stuff it full of repetitive programming. The network and its ilk over at Hallmark and Lifetime play new and semi-new specials every year, each with the same old clichés. If I see even a mention of yet another “dog saves Christmas” special I might cry. Lifetime and Hallmark, meanwhile, feature the same half-baked plots that make their normal awful offerings with a Christmas twist. I do not need to see one-dimensional characters rip apart the ideas of Christmas and Hannukah with their trite platitudes. Just give me the Grinch and Rudolph and make those movies go away. Like the crowds on Black Friday or our stomachs after a holiday feast, holiday programming and coverage have become bloated. We need to cut back the festivities so that the holidays stay special, so that holiday programming is viewed with happiness, not exasperated derision.