Bring on the Christmas music

This ‘Life In Quarantine’ column originally ran on Sunday, September 20, 2020 in The Gaston Gazette and five other newspapers throughout North and South Carolina.

I have a little game I like to play every Christmas season. The premise is simple: How long can I go before I hear the Mariah Carey song, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”? The later I can make it into December, the better.

The past two years, I’ve gone as late as Dec. 8. The earliest is Nov. 27 (back in 2016), thanks to the in-store Christmas music being pumped through my local Walgreens.

However, a new record has been set for 2020, and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet. I heard the song two weeks ago on Magic 98.9 (WSPA-FM/HD1) – an adult contemporary radio station broadcasting out of Greenville-Spartanburg. The song was played as part of their special Labor Day Weekend programming they called “Countdown to Christmas” where they played non-stop holiday music in an effort to bring a little joy and good cheer to those who could use it after the year we’ve been through so far.

It may have been billed as a Countdown To Christmas, but I think for most folks, it’s more of a Countdown to the End of the Year that people are most excited about.

Just like much of 2020, you can place an asterisk by this new Mariah Carey Christmas record I have set.

As a year, 2020 can’t go away fast enough. People are already looking at 2021 to mark a new beginning.

I’m not one of those people though. I don’t like to rush things.

I also don’t like to rush Christmas either. I’m not one of those ‘day-after-Halloween types’ that can’t wait to crank the Bing, Burl and Wham on November 1st. It seems excessive to me. I’m perfectly OK with the day after Thanksgiving.

But this year, oddly enough, Christmas over Labor Day weekend just seems to make sense. Why? Because, why not?

The year has already been turned on its head. Pro basketball is being played late into summer and fall. The Kentucky Derby took place the first weekend in September instead of its traditional first weekend in May.

And then there’s the The Masters, one of the PGA Tour’s Major Championships, and widely considered to be one of the biggest. It will still be played this year, but not to a backdrop of stunning azaleas and flowering dogwoods that has become synonymous with this annual golf tournament. Instead it will be played in November. And like most sporting events this year, without fans.

Schools have gone virtual, along with churches and many jobs. Proms and graduations were either cancelled or looked drastically different than ever before.

The first part of August started with college freshmen moving into their new dorms, only to be evicted from them a few weeks later.

This has been quite the year. And it’s not over yet.

Steve Sinicropi, Senior Vice President and Market Manager, for Entercom Greenville-Spartanburg says that Magic 98.9’s “Countdown To Christmas” programming earlier this month was meant to be a “jolt of joy and happiness for people that need it.”

It’s like a shot in the arm – – a musical vaccine of sorts. However, it won’t be a cure-all, but hopefully it was a little something that boosted moods, lifted spirits and took people’s minds off the wild and crazy year for just a little bit.

2021 will hopefully be a better year. By then, we will know more. We will be further along the curve.

Maybe there will be a vaccine by then. Or a cure. Either way, I just hope there will be some measurable progress so that we can begin to return to something we halfway recognize.

Even I, the no-Christmas-music-before-Thanksgiving guy, cranked some holiday tunes while running errands. It just felt right. It may not be beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but it sure sounded like it, if only for a few minutes.

A friend overheard the yuletide sounds coming out of my truck and looked a little baffled. I said, “Hey listen to that, there’s Christmas music on the radio already. That’s weird, right?”

Without skipping a beat, she replied, “Nothing is weird anymore.”

Boy, is she right. Maybe we do need a little Christmas. Right this very minute.

Ben Dungan has been writing about how life has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak. You can email him at [email protected] and read more from him at