It was in September this year that those first yuletide trimmings of red and green were emerging in Myer and David Jones – a full three months before the big day. And yet outside those fortresses of holiday jubilance, the world seemed eerily void of Christmas cheer.
I’ve heard it said that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear. But have we been singing? Not until the last minute, according to this infographic from social music network Last.fm‘s Facebook page.
According to Last.fm’s data (gathered via their proprietary ‘scrobbling’ process), it’s not until December 6 that people reach even half of their peak (unsurprisingly, Christmas Eve) when it comes to listening to the top 10 Christmas songs.
Does this mean that (contrary to popular opinion) Christmas is actually getting later every year? That Christmas doesn’t truly begin until early December, not (as the department stores would have you believe) in September, October or even November? Sure, you might argue that Christmas is more than music: it’s presents, it’s food, it’s making merry.
But I think music is a useful indicator of that elusive ‘christmassy’ feeling. I love music. It’s the reason I have not only a physical CD collection, but an iTunes library, Spotify subscription and even a dusty old record player. And it’s only during the most wonderful time of the year that the dust is wiped away and my (read: stolen from my parents) copy of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas comes out.
So, for a bit of Christmas fun, I thought I’d try to work out why people are delaying their annual WHAM-fest. Is it because – as someone suggests on Last.fm’s wall – “Christmas is BS”? Maybe it’s because of the aforementioned department stores flying the banner of Christmas a little too hard, and turning us into a bunch of Grinches?
A simple Google Trends search of the phrase ‘Christmas carol’ reveals an alarming development. Not only do searches not begin peaking until December, but the number of searches is steadily declining, with December 2011 seeing only a quarter of the number of searches during the Christmas 2005.
My theory is that Christmas – the mysterious, wonderful thing that it is – continues to hold a special place in most people’s hearts. A place that resists the new and pines for tradition. Listening to Christmas carols isn’t like listening to everyday music. It’s something special and many people treat it with appropriate reverence.
For me it means the record player. For others it might be tuning in to their favourite Christmas radio station, or dusting off the old hymn book and getting back to basics. Whatever the method, the sentiment remains the same: you can’t ‘stream’ Christmas.
So, maybe Christmas isn’t coming later, it’s just that unlike almost everything else, Christmas hasn’t fully come into alignment with the web. And maybe that’s a good thing.
Oh, before I go, a gift for all you Christmas diehards out there: The advent of digital radio (pardon the pun – I had to have at least one!) means your stocking can be metaphorically full all year long with 24/7, 365 days a year Christmas radio.
So on that note: Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year to you all.
Richard Parker is the head of digital at strategic content agency Edge, where he has experience working with leading brands including Woolworths, St George and Foxtel. He previously spent 12 years in the UK, first at Story Worldwide then as the co-owner and strategic director of marketing agency Better Things.