Sounds Familiar: The Melodies We’ll Be Humming To This Christmas:

How many times have you heard the song “Jingle Bells” over the past week while you’ve been out shopping? If it’s only been five or ten times, perhaps you should consider yourself lucky. Nigel Rodgers, the founder of “Pipedown”, a group that campaigns for more silence in public places, calculates that department store staff will be obliged to listen to this and other traditional melodies around 300 times between now and Christmas Day.

In October, Rodger’s organisation published the results of a survey by The Good Hotel Guide, which reported that “The omnipresent curse of annoying muzak” is one of the most hated aspects of hotels today”. Pipedown’s efforts appear to be having some effect: Marks & Spencer have decided to “switch off the music” in its branches for the whole of the year, including the festive season and ASDA will introduce “a daily Christmas-music-free hour from December 15th”. Several other big retailers, however, have done the opposite. As the Sunday Times columnist, Iram Ramzan pointed out in his article on 12th November, John Lewis will be relaying Christmas music for the first time and some of its branches will be inviting “small groups of musicians to play and sing to create more atmosphere”. Sainsbury’s, noted Ramzan, is “another enthusiast: usually it provides music only in its cafes, but  this Christmas, seasonal tunes will blare throughout its stores”.

Customers who find this annoying can of course go elsewhere. Employees, however, don’t have this option and so have to put up with the same songs being repeated day after day: As a result, Linda Blair, a British clinical psychologist, told Sky News, they “become unable to focus on anything else and spend all their energy trying not to hear what they’re hearing”. The Business Insider commentator, Lindsay Dodgson, suggested on November 2nd that they should buy some earplugs, though she didn’t explain how they could then attend to their customers.

Dodgson’s observation that “Christmas music is something you either love or loathe” highlights the fact that, not only is it almost impossible to escape from it at this time of year, but that it always seems to consist of the same tunes. As a contributor to the “Red Chestnuts” website has asked, “Why are there no new Christmas songs? Why am I listening to exactly the same ones that my dad and probably my grandfather listened to at my age?” He’s not against religious songs such as “Silent Night” and “We Three Kings”, but it’s the “secular ones” he hears in the stores that he’s most fed up with.

The American cartoonist and CNN correspondent, Jake Tapper, has acknowledged that, because “new Christmas songs have failed to break through”, we’ll all be humming identical tunes to last year and many years before. Examples are the inevitable “White Christmas” (Bing Crosby 1942), “Blue Christmas” (Elvis Presley 1957), “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” (Wizzard Rock Band 1973) ,“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (Band Aid 1984), “All I Want For Christmas Is You” (Maria Carey 1994) and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (orginal version recorded by the 13-year-old Jimmy Boyd in 1952). In her list of “the 12 worst Christmas songs ever inflicted on humankind”, the Time Out correspondent, Kate Lloyd, has included “Drummer Boy” and “Under The Mistletoe” (both by Justin Bieber), “Santa Baby” (Madonna), “Milennium Prayer” (Cliff Richard) and “Christmas Tree” (Lady Gaga & Space Cowboy).

Meanwhile: Data compiled by the price comparison website “GoCompare” has confirmed that “Black Friday” (this year, 24th November) now signals “the big start to the UK’s Christmas shopping period”. It predicted that £3 billion would be spent during the event with 49% of the shopping being done online. The Guardian journalists Sarah Butler and Zoe Wood reported on 25th November that Britain’s online retailers had indeed won the battle for sales on Black Friday, with overall spending up 3% on 2016, despite a decline in the number of shoppers visiting stores: When Currys/ PC World on Oxford Street opened its doors at 7 am, “only one customer, who had ordered a laptop, was waiting”.

An investigation conducted by the finance website, Bobatoo, has revealed that most of those questioned “are planning to spend less than £200 on Christmas food, drink and decorations” – which correlates with the estimate by the Guardian commentator Rob Walker on 25th November that 53% of Britons won’t spend more than £10 on a bottle of sparkling wine. Furthermore, “on average, UK shoppers will buy presents for between five and ten people”. Only 7% will be giving presents to more than 20 people; 42% plan to spend less than £100 on presents for their partner or spouse, 23% between £100 – £150, 17% more than £150 and 8% over £200. Bobatoo concurs with GoCompare that the majority of Christmas shopping (64%) will be done online this year. Research by the Dutch financial services corporation ING has shown that one in seven Europeans were unhappy with what they received for Christmas last year. More than 50% kept the gifts anyway, 14% sold them, 10% tried to return them to the store and 9% of people in Holland and 11% in the UK returned the gifts to the giver.

According to the Greeting Card Association (GCA), one billion Christmas cards are bought in the UK, mainly in shops and stores rather than online. Charity Christmas cards raise an approximated £50 million for “good causes”. If you’re planning to send a card abroad by airmail, the last posting dates for most of Europe are the 15th and 16th December and for the Caribbean, Central and South America, Thursday 7th December.

Filed under: Music & Dance, Society | Posted on November 29th, 2017 by Colin D Gordon

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