The holidays are upon us! It’s a time to lay around your parents’ house and eat good food, or hang with your friends in a celebration of togetherness and care. Despite the packaging, despite the stress of knowing that you’re inching closer to another year for which you’re woefully unprepared, there’s something about the air getting colder that makes you feel more at home.
I’m a slut for the Christmas season. There’s something so perfect about the daydream of white, despite the fact that it hasn’t snowed on Christmas in years. But it’s about the daydream. So to give worship to the ancient gods that control things like snow and good cheer, I start blasting that Mariah Carey the minute the clock strikes midnight on November 1st. Now you may be wondering things like “Why would you do that?” or “Why so early?” To answer both questions: I am pro-Christmas music all year round. You’re lucky I don’t make you listen to it in July! There’s just something magical about listening to an old white man sing about snow for absolutely no reason at all. So here’s how you slowly annoy all of your loved one’s into also appreciating some Christmas cheer from November well into the new year.
It Starts in the Car
Christmas season starts in the car. Even before that one radio station on your dial flips to Christmas music sometime post-Thanksgiving, a yearning for those warm chords start to strike. Even if you’re a non-driving gay like myself, what’s really stopping you from grabbing the aux? Start with a car driven by someone who’s friendly to it, like my mom. My mom is a subtle Christmas lover. Sure, she fights me and my dad on if we should get a real tree this year (we should), but by the time that Douglas Fir is brought in she is ready, ornament in hand. She throws on a Pentatonix Christmas album that I then shuffle with some Nat King Cole, and a calm washes over our family room. So start in the car, or with my mom.
Fill In the Background Noise
This is when you start taking up space. Sometimes it can feel empty hanging around a house you once called your own. You wander abandoned bedrooms as your folks run last minute errands, and you think about when this big house was full of sound. So, in the spirit of a lively 2006 Christmas long-forgotten, you spread some Christmas cheer. I do this by blasting my Christmas music in common areas. If you’re bold you can take over a crowded room, but there are subtler ways to reel your family in. Start by playing the music in rooms that are technically empty but people nearby can hear. For them, it’ll start as background music, a score to follow their day to. Maybe they’ll hum a couple notes as the day flies by. It’s the little things.
Keep Christmas on Your Tongue
The best way to forcibly spread Christmas cheer is to always have it on the tip of your tongue. First it’s just one song: you hum a classic everyone knows around the house. I live with nine people, and nearly half the house is made up of chronic sing-songers. I can tell which of my roommates is coming down the stairs just by the tone of a tune. So as I hum “Winter Wonderland” (the Louis Armstrong version), it suddenly becomes like that scene from The Hunger Games. Like mockingjays, my peers repeat the tune in their own unique patterns until it sticks. An ear worm that stays all the way through December.
Talk About Literally Any Change in Temperature
Okay this one is regional in many ways, but it’s more so about a change in environment. I spend most of my year in a Central Illinois college town, so the seasons change from week to week. Use that to your advantage! When the first day of December is 61 degrees, talk about it! And as you accidentally start a conversation about how global warming is roasting the planet, just drop in the fact that you hope it snows this year. Suddenly your peer is taken back, reminded of when Chicagoland blizzards stacked their front yards with snow as tall as them. They think about the last time a haze of white dotted their house as they opened presents they would discard in a week. And when they’re nostalgic and vulnerable, then you start playing music. Keep it subtle, leave the conversation for a nearby couch or chair, then let the music hang in the air like tinsel that looks pretty and gets everywhere.
Weaponize Family Time
By now it’s starkly December, the tree is up and the Christmas lights flicker on as the sun goes down. Sounds like the perfect time for a movie night! It’s the easiest way to get everyone in the mood, because who doesn’t have a favorite Christmas movie? Now there are new ones and funny ones and adult ones, but what you’re looking for is something from your youth. If you’re with friends, you just have to pick a movie that came out when you all were kids. Heck, even something like Elf will still hit that nostalgia funny bone. But if you’re with family, you’ll have to go for a classic. Think Rudolph or Frosty, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Something that feels like it’s been around for as long as time itself. Because that’s the ticket. When the music swells and the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes, that’s when you know you’ve won them over. What you need is something that reminds the room of how it feels to sit on the floor in footie pajamas, stars in your eyes.
Get a Little Too Into It
Ask people if they want to go Christmas caroling. Granted wait till they’re tipsy on a little eggnog or a spiked hot chocolate, but just posit it as a fun activity for the group. Yes, I know that only white people in Christmas movies actually take part in the practice of caroling, but who hasn’t thought about it once or twice? No one’s gonna actually do it, but if you’ve prepped your friends or family long enough, they might just ponder it. There’s a kind of magic in the daydream of walking around the neighborhood, a song in your heart. They’ll definitely decline (because again, no one does this in real life), but just planting the idea in their heads will have them thinking Christmas thoughts…. and then you start the music again.
It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas
Okay now it’s actually Christmas. If you’ve followed these steps then your friends and family should be properly worn down on the Christmas music front. So time to really milk it! Grab a bluetooth speaker and play Christmas music literally all day. This is the one time you’re actually allowed to play it and now one can object! Own it.
The After Christmas Glow
By this time Christmas has come to a close and you’re thinking perhaps it’s time to stop the charade. I mean you like Christmas music, but do you like it this much? Yes, you do. Christmas music is the aural embodiment of the tree you don’t take down till mid-February. You still cling to the idea of staying at home with a mug of hot cocoa and not a thought in your head. At that point you’re just waiting till the feeling passes and your friends or family fall back into that mid-year monotony. That’s the magic of the weirdo who listens to Christmas tunes far too early: it keeps the air light with the feeling of time best spent away. If you play it long enough, people almost start to forget they have to go back to work on Monday. Well, almost.
RITUALS is a nine-part miniseries edited by Vanessa Friedman. The writers who contributed to this miniseries will share all sorts of rituals: rituals for love, rituals for grief, rituals for forgiveness, rituals for inner peace. We’ll publish a few pieces each week through December 31. Please share your rituals in the comments, and let our contributors know which rituals in particular speak to you.