'Tis the season! Radio stations switch over to playing all Christmas music: Tradition is 'very important'

Raechal Shewfelt
·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·3 min read
Mariah Carey isn't alone in wanting to get on with Christmas. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for MC)
Mariah Carey isn't alone in wanting to get on with Christmas. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for MC)

Hear that? It’s the sound of Mariah Carey rejoicing, as radio stations across the country agree with the “All I Want for Christmas Is You” singer that it’s time to start playing holiday tunes.

Listeners of seven iHeartRadio stations in markets including Los Angeles, Dallas and Charleston, S.C., have heard Carey, as well as Elvis Presley, the Ronettes, Brenda Lee and all the rest, rockin’ around the Christmas tree since Nov. 1. Eventually, 80 of the company’s more than 850 stations will switch over to festive tunes all day, every day through Dec. 25.

It’s just one of the ways that the “most wonderful time of the year” seems to be arriving early in 2020, with Starbucks offering its holiday cups starting Friday and stores greatly extending their traditional Black Friday sales. (Walmart’s event is already underway!) Not to mention that the Hallmark Channel began showing its beloved Christmas movies even before kids went trick-or-treating.

As far as the radio changeover goes, though, it’s actually not any earlier. An industry source notes that some stations regularly flip just after Halloween. One reason it might feel like it is though is that some stations brought back some holiday cheer in small doses at the start of the pandemic.

Jay Towers is the morning show host and music director at Detroit’s 100.3 WNIC, one of the iHeartRadio stations that did that. They’re scheduled to begin spinning Christmas music full time beginning Friday — a full 42 days before we eat our last candy cane of the season.

(Photo: Instagram)
(Photo: Instagram)

“This past year has been extremely stressful for our state much like the rest of the world with coronavirus,” Towers tells Yahoo Entertainment. “So comfort and tradition right now [are] very important to us and our listeners. We have gone as early as Nov. 1 in the past and as late as Nov. 15. It’s always been about when it feels right. I think it was the right decision to wait until after Election Day this year. Political ads were the heaviest I remember... ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ would have had a tough time competing with that.”

Towers explains that, in the past, some listeners have criticized that station for moving to a holiday format, which is something the station is known for, too soon. This year is no different.

“If you answer our phones at WNIC in the studio, or check our social media you will see the outcry is massive [to switch],” Towers says. “[Then] like anything else, the moment we flip, we will get the ‘it’s too early’ comments.”

Over on the Facebook page for Providence, Rhode Island, station Lite Rock 105, there was a good number of those kinds of messages, such as “let us get through Thanksgiving first” and “one holiday at a time.” However, even most of the critics didn’t have a problem with some Christmas music. They just wanted it rotated in with the rest until after Thanksgiving.

People on Lite Rock 105's Facebook page are torn. (Photo: Facebook)
People on Lite Rock 105's Facebook page are torn. (Photo: Facebook)

However, those people were definitely in the minority. Most said it was a much-needed pick-me-up during the last stretch of this wild, often devastating year.

Detroit radio’s Towers, for one, is in favor of the carols.

“Everyone is pretty anxious to put 2020 behind them,” he says. “It’s nice to be at a point now where our listeners can escape some of the challenges of this past year for a few hours and enjoy Christmas music again.”

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