I have this habit of getting into the holiday spirit a little too early. I am the sucker for whom they stock Christmas stuff at Hobby Lobby in October. I am the sap who walks the holiday aisles at Target, relishing the drip from Halloween spooks into red and green nostalgia.
Unfortunately, I am married to a person who is the opposite. In fact, Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday. He finds it offensive that Christmas and other wintery affairs would dare to impose upon Thanksgiving. He thinks there should be designated time for gluttony and football. Funny, I always just thought Thanksgiving was the official Christmas kick-off. Isn’t that what Macy’s has taught us all along?
When you are married, it’s important to make compromises. This isn’t an advice column, it’s a music column, so we’re about to make a hard shift here, specifically to one such compromise. In our house, we don’t start Christmas until Thanksgiving has come and gone. You won’t see a tree behind our turkey spread (well, actually, we are vegetarians, so you won’t see a turkey either), and I’m not piping holiday classics through the speakers as we wash the dishes.
Perhaps this feels logical to you, but when Christmas is “all around us” (Christmas movie references are allowed), it rings counterintuitive. For example, I do not, under any circumstances, miss the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The thing is riddled with carols and Christmas commercials with jingles. I hum along—it only seems right. So, what’s going to come to me, an hour or two later as I’m prepping the mashed potatoes to take to my parents’ house? If I so much as murmur a bar of “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” I will get an eyebrow.
These strict rules are not limited to holiday music, but stretch to include movies, decorations and other such paraphernalia. The most difficult for me to accommodate is the movies, mostly because I have a pretty lengthy list of favorites that I intend to get through before each Christmas. These things take planning and time. Therefore, many years ago, I began devising a plan to beat the system, and I started to categorize certain movies as “pre-Christmas.” If the movie was perhaps set at Christmastime, but not necessarily about Christmas, it was moved into the pre-Christmas category. These films—such as “Little Women,” “The Holiday,” “The Family Stone”—are sure to satisfy that early holiday itch, bound to invoke the desired holiday feels, but they are not technically holiday movies (never mind that one is actually called “The Holiday”), and as such, they are fair game before Thanksgiving.
I realized that I can accomplish the same with my music. We’ve spent all summer listening to classic rock and reggae-inspired electronic tunes to give ourselves cool vacation vibes. As the skies darken earlier and I start cooking warming meals and lighting spicy candles, I see no reason not to curate playlists to match.
It starts out small. Maybe you decide that the low lighting of your living room makes it feel like a jazz lounge, and wouldn’t some soft jazz music be a nice soundtrack for your soup dinner? If you want it to, any jazz piano channel on your Apple Music can sound a little like Kenny G or the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Lay that groundwork, and in a few days, you can play the entire Glenn Miller Essentials playlist and it will seem perfectly natural. From there, work your way through the great crooners—just make sure to begin with those lesser associated with the holidays. For example, you can’t leap into Nat King Cole or Bing Crosby, but I find that Louis Armstrong makes a great segue. Then slowly, slowly slip in the Frank Sinatra. From there, it’s just a little hop to Andy Williams and then Crosby. (Sometimes, if you tell your Apple Music to play Bing Crosby, you accidentally get a Christmas song, because the man is just the essence of Christmas. This can’t be helped and you cannot be blamed for a surprise carol here or there.)
So, happy pre-Christmas to one and all! Below, my pre-Christmas gift to you, a condensed version of my pre-Christmas musical scheme.
Sarah’s Pre-Christmas Playlist
“Moon River”—Audrey Hepburn
“To Build a Home”—Cinematic Orchestra (feat. Patrick Wilson)
“Moonlight Serenade”—Glenn Miller
“Clair de Lune”—Michael Dulin
“What a Wonderful World”—Louis Armstrong
“I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm”—Frank Sinatra
“Unforgettable”—Nat King Cole
Sarah’s Soft Christmas Playlist
“We’re Going to the Country!”—Sufjan Stevens
“Light of the World”—Lauren Daigle
“Christmas Time is Here”—Vince Guaraldi Trio
“Hark”—Tides of Winter
“Let It Snow”—Diana Krall
“Love Came Down”—Future of Forestry
“O Holy Night”—Matt Wertz
“Bring a Torch”—Jeanette, Isabella, Sufjan Stevens
“White Christmas”—Lauren Daigle
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”—Coldplay