Winter Storm and Winter Songs

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According to the calendar, it is still officially Autumn.  There are still colored leaves on the trees here in Michigan.  Many people haven’t even started raking them yet.  This, however, may be the shortest Autumn I can remember as we were hit today with quite the winter storm!

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I guess we broke the record today for “most snowfall” on November 11th.  The record (for the Detroit area, anyway) was set back in 1984 – 4.1 inches.  That record was surpassed as early as 1pm today.  The snow continued to fall throughout the evening and made for one hell of a ride (3+ hours) into work!

The snow brings out a lot of anger in people.  People waste no time talking about how much they hate the snow.  “It’s too early,” they say.  It’s not like we haven’t had snow early in November before, we have.  As a matter of fact, it was one year ago I posted about it snowing on Facebook.  We’ve certainly seen snow as early as late October, too!  While I don’t necessarily like having to shovel it, or drive in it, I do like the snow.  I marvel at the beauty of it when it has first fallen on the ground.  Someone posted this on Facebook yesterday, and it is SO true:

“If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life but still the same amount of snow.”

Sometimes, in life, we need to look for the positives instead of focusing on the negatives.

At any rate, all the snow brought me back to a thought I had while writing a recent blog about Christmas music (Is It Too Early? – on November 2).  Some radio stations (both local and on Sirius XM) have started playing all Christmas music.  On my drive in, I was flipping around and stopped on the local station, because they were playing a song that would be considered a Christmas song, but actually worked because of the weather.

Here I am driving 30mph while the snow is falling, and Dean Martin’s “Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!” is playing.  It was the perfect song for the weather.  Which brings me back to the thought I had in the previous blog – why can’t stations play “winter” songs before Christmas, and after Christmas?  I compiled a list of songs that could certainly be played as just “winter hits”.

Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!

Winter Wonderland

Snowfall

Winter Weather

Snow

I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm

Marshmallow World

Song For A Winter’s Night

Snowbird

Hazy Shade of Winter

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Jingle Bells

There are SO many more.  Jingle Bell Rock could easily be a “winter song”.  Frosty the Snowman is a “winter song”.  Sleigh Ride is also a snowy “winter song”!  It doesn’t have to be Christmas for me to enjoy those songs.  Am I forgetting any?  What can YOU add to the list?

Too Early?

I should mention that my wife listens to Christmas music all year round.  AND she likes to be able to enjoy the decorations, so when we have our first snow, the tree goes up.  Yes, it is up and decorated…and the cats are already enjoying it.

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I guess I should make sure the snow blower starts when I get home ….

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Too Early??

Halloween is barely behind us, and we are just a day or two into November.  Christmas is over 50 days away, however, it is everywhere! Even before Halloween, many stores had their Christmas displays and decorations up!

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For years, people have pondered, discussed, and debated the “how early is too early for Christmas” topic.  In September this cartoon was all over the internet:

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Just before Halloween, Sirius XM radio began adding their holiday channels to their line up.  Countless radio stations across the country flipped to “all Christmas” music yesterday and Facebook and almost every major news outlet had stories about it.  I really don’t know why people were acting so surprised by this, because it happens every year!  Is this the earliest stations have flipped?  No.  I recall a few years where some stations flipped to all Christmas BEFORE Halloween.

There was a time when Christmas music didn’t even start playing on the radio until Thanksgiving weekend.  I recall scheduling 3 to 4 Christmas songs an hour throughout that weekend, and then cutting back to 1 an hour after Thanksgiving weekend.  As Christmas got closer, the number of songs we played increased to 2, 3, and eventually 4 an hour.  We almost always went all Christmas music at 12 noon Christmas Eve and then would continue through 6pm Christmas night.  That’s not the case anymore.

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People inevitably ask me the question – “Why do stations go all Christmas so early?!”  The answer is a simple one – ratings!  Its not always the case, but most of the time, these stations who play all Christmas music do very well in the ratings books – which means more $$ for the station.  Some retail stores do not have the pre-recorded satellite music, so they will pipe the “all Christmas station” throughout the store.   That means more listeners to that particular station.

Is it good or bad?

So this brings me to a Facebook discussion some friends were having (after one person voiced his disgust at the fact that his station flipped to all Christmas) yesterday.  His argument was that “holiday music increases stress and is unhealthy for people.”  I knew exactly what he was referring to.

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A couple years ago, a psychologist named Linda Blair said that listening to Christmas music too early in the holiday season can have a negative effect on people.  She stated that it can affect mental health triggering “feelings of stress.”  She said that hearing holiday music is a reminder of all the things that you have to do to get ready for the holiday.  She said the music will cause you to worry about (and become overwhelmed by) the things on your “to-do” list like travel planning, shopping, and planning for parties.

She also said that people who work in retail, especially those who work at places like shopping malls, face a higher risk of what she called “Christmas music-induced stress”! “Hearing the same songs over and over each day could make workers struggle to ‘tune it out’ and they become ‘unable to focus on anything else,’ she said. “You’re simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you’re hearing.”

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That story first hit the news in 2017, and has already be reprinted this year on many social media and news pages.  Blair never really cites any concrete evidence, or study results, so how do we know that this is actually the case?  Maybe she is just a Grinch who hates Christmas Music?? Who knows?!

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On the other hand …

In response to Linda Blair’s findings, there is another article (this one citing “scientific studies”) that says the exact opposite!  In those studies, it was proven that listening to “uplifting music”  – like Jingle Bell Rock, Frosty the Snowman and A Holly Jolly Christmas, to name a few – has been known to have a positive effect both physically and psychologically.

According to these studies, the feeling associated when listening to music can be sorted into two categories, perceived emotions (when we appreciate the emotional tone of the piece, but not feel that emotion ourselves) and felt emotions. Felt emotions are when we connect to the feeling behind the piece we are listening to and it can impact our emotional state.”

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As someone who has worked in radio for 30+ years, I know first hand the connection that music has to memories.  Do a google search on “music memory quotes” and there are plenty of them. One quote in particular holds true for the next point – from Michigan’s own, Stevie Wonder:

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“Music has a strong tie to nostalgia.”

This is why hearing a song from your childhood may bring back memories of elementary school, a high school dance, or a major life event like it was yesterday. It’s also why listening to certain Christmas songs can make people feel warm, fuzzy and child-like. Part of the reason why Christmas music is associated with joy is not necessarily the music itself, but the memories that come with it.

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So, listening to Christmas songs may make you feel nostalgic for your childhood or just generally happy, because your brain has already created positive associations with the music. And it’s been proven – research conducted by researchers at McGill University proved that when people listen to happy, upbeat music, they can recall happy memories within a short amount of time.   The entire article can be found here:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170228131027.htm

“In the experiment, the researchers had participants listen to four different genres of original music they had never heard before: happy (positive, high arousal), peaceful (positive, low arousal), scary (negative, high arousal) and sad (negative, low arousal). The researchers found that when the participants listened to happy, upbeat music, it brought about happy memories.”

That being said, there are Christmas songs that can bring about sad memories, too.  So I guess there is that possibility, too.  For the most part, though, Christmas music is happy and upbeat.  That would suggest that listening to Christmas music brings about nostalgic thoughts which brings about happy memories and you being a happier person.

What’s my take on it?

While I don’t listen to Christmas music 24/7/365, I do have Christmas songs on my iPod.  When I am listening to it and a Christmas song comes on out of season, it depends on my mood as to whether or not I am going to listen to it.  There are some Christmas songs that I can listen to no matter what the season, because (as the latter study suggested) it makes me feel good or happy.

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I remember when I worked at Honey Radio in Detroit, we would throw in “summer songs” when it was summer time.  We’d play “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summmer”, “Wonderful Summer”, “Summertime”, and others and then cut back on them in the fall and winter.  I have never understood why songs like “Let it Snow”, “Winter Wonderland”, or “Jingle Bells” (which are basically winter time songs that never really mention Christmas) didn’t play throughout the Winter.

Final Thought

There are people who complain just because they like complaining.  Bottom line is this – radio is free.  You have many choices up and down the dial.  There are many other stations that are not playing Christmas music 24/7, so if you don’t want to hear it – DON’T!  Pop in a CD, listen to your Spotify, plug in a USB with your tunes on it, or find the satellite channel that plays the format you enjoy.  Problem solved!

I have always looked forward to the Christmas season.  People tend to be friendlier.  People seem to be kinder.  There is a sense of happiness that comes with the season.  Elvis Presely’s “Why Can’t Everyday Be Like Christmas?” captures that sentiment.  Just because you don’t want to listen to Christmas music, doesn’t mean that others don’t want to.  Christmas music and the holiday season bring about a joy that seems to be lacking today – don’t be a Scrooge!

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Keeping Christmas All The Year

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Well, the Christmas presents are now opened. The music books with Christmas Carols are now back up on the shelves and the Christmas music on the radio has abruptly ceased. It is painfully obvious that Christmas is over!  I have never understood how these radio stations that go “all Christmas music” LONG before Thanksgiving, can just stop it immediately at midnight on December 26th.  Ok, I get it, Christmas is over, but you could casually fade back into regular music.  I mean it is Wednesday and I know some people who aren’t even going to get together with their family until this weekend to celebrate the holiday. Besides, there are plenty of “winter” songs that could easily still play in rotation, much like those oldies stations sprinkle in “summer” themed songs during the summer. I am sorry – I digress.

The fact that Christmas is over, however, is important for me to make a point with this blog.  Much like it was important for readers to know that “Marley was dead” to completely grasp the story of a Christmas Carol by Dickens, we must understand that Christmas is over.  Speaking of Dickens, a quote from his holiday classic is the exact thing that has me writing this blog.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year” – Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Keeping Christmas All Year

It is easier to be nicer to people in December.  We are naturally friendlier, we put a little more into each handshake, we smile a bit bigger, and we are more charitable.  Think of the things that you “over look”, “forgive” or choose not to say anything about because “it’s Christmas”.  Because of the season, it’s easier to do.  I heard someone call Christmas Spirit a “limited time offer” once.  That, in itself is humorous, but what if we didn’t put a limit on this?  What if we made a choice to be nicer to people, forgive more, and to spread Christmas Spirit throughout the other 11 months of the year?  Just HOW do we even go about doing that?

Imagine if we all made a conscious choice to live every day with the Christmas spirit?  Elvis Presley said in one of my favorite (and underplayed) Christmas songs: “Oh why can’t every day be Christmas?  Why can’t that feeling go on endlessly?  For if every day could be just like Christmas, what a wonderful world it would be.”  Powerful lyrics!  So powerful, that I would like to present a challenge.

I wish I could say that I thought of this on my own, but I didn’t.  I am sure that there have been others who have posed this same challenge throughout the years.  However, perhaps if I keep presenting it, maybe, collectively, we CAN make a difference and keep the spirit of Christmas alive well into 2019 and beyond.

Realistically, I understand that it would be odd to be singing Christmas Carols at the swimming pool in July or dressing up as an elf with an ugly sweater for work.  So Just what are some ways we can “keep Christmas” in the months ahead?  Here are some ways:

Know What is Important and Make Time for That!

During the Christmas season, we make our families a priority.  We spend time making memories and celebrating with them.  After Christmas, the “world” takes over and tries to monopolize your time.  Your job, your bills, and other things can often interfere and beg for your attention.  Remember what is truly important to you.  Make family a priority.  When you are able to bring yourself back to what matters most, you can make the most of every day and every situation.

Be Kind To Everyone.

I’ll admit, this isn’t always an easy thing to do.  At Christmas, everyone seems to be a bit nicer to each other, so let’s start here.  Treat everyone with a bit of kindness – especially those who aren’t necessarily nice to you.  This, in itself, is a great way to keep that Christmas Spirit alive.  Think about how you would treat that person if it were Christmas.

Be Thankful.  Focus On What You Have.

During the holidays, we often reflect on the things that we are thankful for – our family, our friends, and the things that make us happy.  When we bask in the appreciation of what we have, and reflect on those things with happiness – we continue that Christmas feeling well past Christmas Day!  The key to making this happen is to focus more on what you have instead of what you want.  Instead of saying, “I want …” and “I need….” think “I’m very grateful I have …”

Find the Good.  Surround Yourself With It.

At Christmas, we see many things that bring about a childlike wonder.  We take note of the things like Christmas lights, special ornaments, an ongoing tradition, and the curiosity of what’s in a beautifully wrapped present.  Look on life in wonder and amazement.  Find those things that bring about that wonder and embrace the good things you see in everyday life.  Marveling in those things is another way to keep the Christmas spirit alive.

Giving to Charity

During the holidays, we tend to give a bit more.  We drop extra change in the red buckets and exchange pleasantries with the bell ringers; we adopt families at church; we donate to organizations who provide Christmas presents for kids without families and are a bit more open to helping.  Doing something for a charity throughout the year is an amazing way to keep that spirit of Christmas alive AND you’ll feel good about doing it.  The need doesn’t go away after Christmas.  The shelters still have people in need.  There are always people who have been hit with tragedy that can use your help.  Even donating to a local food bank can be a huge help.  It is better to give than to receive, and should you ever need to be on the receiving end, you will be thankful for those who gave.

Get Active in Your Community

During the holidays, many will take part in the Christmas Tree lighting or Christmas Sing Alongs.  Throughout the year, the community is always looking for volunteers to help with various events.  Get involved with things that make a positive impact on your city.  Help with community clean up projects, support local businesses, or go to a city council meeting.  Be proud of the city you live in and be a good neighbor to others!

Listen to Some Tunes

Who says it has to be December to listen to Christmas songs?!  I have Christmas songs on my iPod and when I am listening at work, I very rarely skip them.  Those songs that make you happy during the holiday season can bring a smile to your face anytime of the year.  Winter Wonderland is a good song to cool you off in the summer!  For some, the religious Christmas songs serve as a reminder that we need God/Jesus in our lives every day.  There is no law as to when one can listen to Christmas songs…so crank them up!

Christmas Shop All Year

No need to wait for Black Friday deals.  Here’s a great idea that you may actually relieve some stress next Christmas – shop now!  Whenever you see a great deal on a toy or something that would be a great Christmas gift, buy it now and store it away until December.  How amazing would it be to have all that shopping done for Christmas BEFORE all the madness?!  It will also help you with your budget!  So many people go into debt at Christmas because they use the last few paychecks of the year to do all of their shopping.  Take that extra $20 each paycheck throughout the year and buy a gift, you’ll thank me in December when everyone but you is stressing at the store.

Send a Card – For No Reason!

One of the things I look forward to each Christmas is getting the mail.  I love to see who has sent us a Christmas Card.  I love the “Year In Review” notes that update me on the various news from friends and family.  In this day and age where we spend so much time on social media and texting – a handwritten note or card in the mail can spread so much joy! Grab some Forever Stamps and make it a point to write a note to someone.

Light a Christmas Candle

Who doesn’t love the smell of a Christmas tree?  Peppermint? Pumpkin Pie? Sugar Cookies?  You can find candles that smell like these things and more.  My wife loves the smell of cinnamon sticks, so we often light candles throughout the year.  This is an easy way to get into the spirit.  Maybe you can light a candle while you write out the card I just mentioned?

Grab a Beverage

My sons bought me my favorite coffee (mentioned in a previous blog) for Christmas.  I can brew a pot of Cinnamon Holiday Blend from Coffee Beanery any time of the year and it makes it feel like Christmas.  Why not have some hot chocolate during the summer?  Who says you can only drink egg nog during the Christmas season?  There are plenty of recipes on the internet – make your own!

Christmas Feast – In July

We have a turkey in our freezer right now.  When you are hearing about all the Christmas in July sales all over town, why not celebrate it with a Christmas Dinner?  I am all about a good meal.  This is another way to keep the spirit alive – why not invite the whole family over for a mid-summer feast?  Have Christmas cookies for dessert! What a great way to enjoy good food and good company!

I Triple Dog Dare You!

So there is a hefty challenge!  I challenge you (and myself) to go forward over the next 11 months and prolong the Christmas season!  Spread that cheer in the months to come!  Let’s be like Scrooge and keep Christmas the whole year! Let’s help make that Elvis lyric come true – “for if every day could be just like Christmas, what a wonderful world this would be!”

“So remember while December
Brings the only Christmas Day
In the year let there be Christmas
In the things we do and say
Wouldn’t life be worth the living
Wouldn’t dreams be coming true
If we kept the Christmas spirit
All the whole year through.”     ~Author unknown, c.1962

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Songs I Can Do Without

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In order for my Christmas season to be “official”, I have to hear Bobby Helms “Jingle Bell Rock” in its entirety on the radio.  I’m not sure why, it just has always been the song that I have associated with the holiday.  Perhaps it was one of those songs that I remember hearing on the radio as a kid, I really don’t know.  I just know that it is the song that says “It’s Christmas time, Keith.”

Let me say this:  I love Christmas music.  As a DJ, I have played countless Christmas parties and have a huge tub of Christmas CD’s.  I have a huge variety of various formats:  Country Christmas songs, Pop Christmas songs, Novelty Christmas songs, and more. One of the radio stations I work for is actually playing all Christmas music right now and I enjoy doing an on air shift there.  All that being said, there are certain Christmas songs that I can do without!  Today’s short blog is a commentary about some of those songs.

Please Stop Playing These

  • “I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas” – I don’t care whether this is the original version or one of the countless remakes.  This song is just plain annoying.  This song makes me want to drive off the road when I hear it.  I cannot change the station fast enough when it comes on.  I have yet to understand what is so appealing about this song!
  • ANYTHING by the Mannheim Steamroller.  While I do appreciate improvisational music, there is nothing about their music that I find entertaining or worth listening to.  Let’s face it, the synthesizer died in the 80’s …. let’s put these songs to bed, too.
  • “Jingle Bells” by the Singing Dogs.  While we are at it, let’s add any Christmas songs done by cats, rabbits, ducks, ferrets, owls, pigs, or any other “musical animal”!  Stop it!  These awful songs deserve no place on the radio.
  • “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” – It sucked when it first came out.  I continues to suck.  Why is ok to play this song, in which grandma is MURDERED by Santa’s sleigh, but people are offended by a song that was recorded YEARS before the phrase “date rape” was even uttered claiming that is what the song is about (“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” for those unaware of that controversy)?
  • “Mistletoe” by Justin Beiber.  – It’s friggin’ Justin Beiber.  That is reason enough!
  • Jingle Bell Rock by Hall and Oates. As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, the original is a classic and a must hear for me.  I am not sure what it is about this version that makes me want to throw the radio out the window.  It is awful!  Perhaps it is just my love for the original that makes me hate this one so much, but probably not, as there are other versions of it that I like.  To me, it’s like listening to cats puking…..hell, I’d actually rather listen to that, than to listen to this.
  • Christmas Wrapping – The Singing Waitresses.  What the hell is this?  I understand that the Spice Girls recorded this too and I can’t imagine their version being any better.  This is probably the biggest waste of 3 minutes ever (with the exception of all Justin Beiber music).  This song is in a “hot” rotation on Sirius XM’s Holly channel.  This song needs to be go away forever!  I want to wrap it up in toilet paper and flush it away!
  • It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams.  It’s the most overplayed song of the season!!  I don’t mind hearing it every so often, but every 20 minutes is a bit much.
  • I am a HUGE Beatles fan – but I have to admit that “Happy Christmas” by John Lennon and “Wonderful Christmastime” are, outside of the previously mentioned Andy Williams song, played to death.  Yoko Ono singing on “Happy Christmas” is like fingernails on the chalkboard!  God!  Who ever told her she could sing – John, must have.  As for Sir Paul, he probably could never record again and live off the royalties from just that song they play it so much.  It’s not a bad song – neither of them are – they are just so overplayed!!!
  • ANYTHING by Pentatonix!!!  I LOVE acapella music!  I do.  When voices blend in good harmony, it is something amazing.  Check out Ricochet’s “Let It Snow” – it’s awesome!  I am not sure if the Pentatonix stuff is just overproduced, but it just sounds wrong to me.  Take the song Hallelujah…Rufus Wainwright’s version is perfect.  This version doesn’t sound right from the first note.  I guess this album is the “new” Bing Crosby album, as stores can’t seem to keep it in stock.  Personally, I’ll pass.
  • Dominick, the Donkey.  As an Italian, I am embarrassed by this song.  Lou Monte is one of the great Italian singers.  His song Lazy Mary was a hit and I danced with my grandmother to it at my first wedding.  Sadly, more people know Lou because of this piece of crap, than his hits!  Jingity jing….URGH!  Do the entire Italian community a favor and don’t ever play this again!!!

These are just a few of the songs that drive me insane.  I am sure if I sat and thought about it more, or just turned on the radio, I could list countless others.  For now, I will let you add to this list.  What Christmas songs do YOU hate and why?  I look forward to reading your responses.