Sunday, November 28, 2010

Death by Caroling

I never have an easy time of the holidays. I don’t know why but it’s always been like that; it’s a struggle and invariably something happens to darken the already gray mood, so that an event tolerable during the summer months is markedly painful to deal with in November or December. True to form, the bad came to pass a day or so ago. It was foreseeable but no less unpleasant for being so.

I am not helped by the caroling, the cheery pap that erupts and covers everything within reach with cloying treacle, making an already difficult time well-nigh intolerable.  At my favorite coffee shop this morning (owned, I might add, by a Lebanese Muslim) the ceiling speakers were blasting out Jingle Bell Rock loudly enough to sour the little plastic containers of Half and Half. At Million Dollar Books, where I get my weekly supply of cheap novels and biased histories, it was Holy Night, followed by Three Kings and capped off with Little Drummer Boy, which rat-tat-tatted my ass right out of the store.

It’s hard to get away from the caroling, since we have made Christmas—a one-time pagan celebration—the centerpiece of the holiday economics. A totally unofficial (and vastly prejudiced) survey I carry out each year among my friends tells me perhaps one in ten likes Christmas music, and six in ten really detest it. One woman friend told me the sheer repetition and sandpaper effect of Noels make her want to cry. Another said she turns off her car radio from Halloween to January second, at which time she thinks it’s once more safe to tune in, but sometimes she gets fooled.  “January 4, 2005,” she recalls. “NPR ran a three-hour special of Christmas music from all over the world, narrated by Garrison Keillor. I stopped sending them money after that.”

The auto parts store that is an essential stop during my Sunday meanderings had a chorus of lumberjacks singing about partridges in pear trees, and when I asked the manager about it, he shrugged and said the company headquarters had ordered all stores to air the company radio, and that programming switched to Christmas tunes the Saturday following Thanksgiving. It has something to do with the franchise agreements. 

Bad events cooperating with bad music create the soundtrack for a hellish Sunday.

It’s my belief that carols are a deterrent to spending money. One is tempted to save in order to give one’s beloved all the gifts described in 28 Days of Christmas, or is it 12 days. No matter. It feels like 28 days.

Stores would be wiser to pipe in The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary or anything by Enya or Dvorak. But they probably won’t. Marketing, we all know, is the wide-ranging application of the lowest common denominator.  So tra la la la la to you, and happy deficit. 

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