BY BOB HOLT
Do you hear what I hear? If you do, then chances are that the Christmas spirit you are currently feeling is somewhat less than bright and festive. That's because once again this holiday season it seems that Santa Claus is coming to town just a little earlier every year.
If you thought you saw Santa parading around in a Speedo down at the beach this past August, that may not have been too far from the truth. Along with the rest of the country, it seemed like the Jersey shore saw the commencement of Christmas cheer beginning shortly after Flag Day.
Ornaments have been on sale at local malls since mid-summer, and signs were posted shortly afterward at their stores soliciting the employment of elves. Elf job opportunities have been generally seasonal, but in recent years they've been seeing more paychecks than a lot of regular citizen workers.
But the biggest commercialism culprit in this area has to be the playing of Christmas music on local radio stations. In fact, some countries are downright stressed out about the whole thing. In Vienna, many sales clerks were calling for a silent night last season due to the incessant repetitive playing of Christmas music in their stores.
We learned a few years back that labor unions in Austria, which happens to be where Silent Night was written in 1816, demanded that stores stop playing the Christmas music all day, or else pay their employees accordingly. That is, according to the amount of "psychological terrorism" they claim to have suffered.
Gottfried Rieser, a union leader in the battle against Bad Santa, said that the constant music makes the workers become more aggressive at home. According to CBS News, he summed up the views of the oppressed majority all too well, he said, "There's no point in playing "Softly Falls the Snow" in the sausage department."
Those of course, are words to live by. But does the union actually have a case? Let's look at the facts as we know them, and make the rest up.
According to my calculations, there are actually a grand total of twenty-five Christmas songs. It just sounds like a lot more because of the classical, muzak, country, rap, hip-hop, death metal versions, and the long playing dance single of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." Which no one has ever been seen doing in recorded history.
So if each song lasts around three minutes and they are played straight through an eight hour shift, the Austrian employees have the privilege of hearing each song about six times a day.
We don't know if there comes a point here when those workers want to run over Grandma, the reindeer, and Santa himself with a large SUV.
Meanwhile here in South Jersey, employees are offered no relief if they look to the radio for some soothing music. Shortly after the race for the White House mid-terms was decided, the Christmas music play list rotation begins in full tilt. In its heyday in 2003, old station WSNI (Sunny 104.5) and WBEB-FM (The Bee, 101.1) used to battle it out to see who went 24 hours of Christmas music first.
Both stations admitted to hearing a number of complaints about starting too early. It actually could have been even worse. WSSS-FM, from Charlotte, North Carolina, began playing Christmas music in 2003 at midnight Halloween night.
Some programmers said that after 9/11, and with the war in Iraq, people just need a little Christmas. But right that very minute? Apparently so, because all across the country all Christmas formats have popped big ratings. Over 400 stations are expected to provide their true listeners approximately sixty days of Christmas this year until December 26. And that's not including the Internet.
Unofficial opinion polls say that people are tired of the format. The Chicago Tribune ran a survey a few years back which had comments about various Christmas carols which went something like this:
The Twelve Days of Christmas: "Twelve thumbs down!"
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: "To gain the affection of the other reindeer he has to do something to help them — they never learn to love him for himself."
Silent Night: "It's become like nails on a chalkboard."
Jingle Bell Rock: "Sucks more than the vacuum of deep space." "Jingle Bells chime in Jingle Bell time. Need I say more?"
Little Drummer Boy: "I'd like to kick that pencil necked little geek right in his rum-pa-pum-pum." "Hearing grown-ups sing "Parum-pum-pum-pum" really irritates me." "My husband actually likes this song. I am not sure I can stay married to him after finding this out."
So you can see that results have proven inconclusive.
Summing up, I can offer no proof that constant exposure to Christmas music makes people more aggressive. If you happen to hear some herald angels or off-beat drunken carolers singing outside one night, put down that new air horn you just got for the occasion and relax. It's just the neighbors playing the 12 inch extended play version of "Up on the House Top." Merry Christmas.