With Christmas a month away, can we start playing holiday music now?

Does hearing the sound of sleigh bells in the snow or chestnuts on roasting an open fire make you say bah humbug? You may not be alone.

Psychologist says listening to too early, too often could be detrimental to mental health

For holiday store worker Caroline Doucet, listening to Christmas music every day of the year is fine. For others it could be harmful for their mental well-being. (Laurène Jardin/CBC)

Does hearing the sound of Sleigh Bells in the Snow or Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire make you say bah humbug? You may not be alone.

For some, listening to holiday music too early and too often could have a negative impact on mental health, according to clinical psychologist Linda Blair.

Christmas music is particularly powerful, she says, because it's associated with memories and those memories are not always positive.

"If you hear it before you want to, that's annoying because it's not in your mental agenda right now," Blair said.

While for some it may trigger bad memories of Christmases past — others find it a badgering reminder of future concerns.

For people who have negative memories associated with the holidays, playing Christmas music too early and too often can cause major anxiety. (CBC)

Who will I be spending time with and do I want to spend time with them? How much money do I need to set aside and do I have that money? These are frequent questions that can come up when listening to Christmas music.

On top of that, Blair says research shows that even if someone likes a song, when it is played repetitively that feeling can turn sour.

"Shop owners are taking a gamble when they start playing music too early," she said.

It's not all bad

Caroline Doucet works at the year-round holiday store Noël éternel in Old Montreal and listens to holiday music 365 days a year without complaint.

"We love Christmas music — and it definitely does not drive us crazy," she said.

Customers sometimes ask if she or the other workers ever get tired of listening to the music.

The Christmas display in Olgivy's window on Ste-Catherine Street is set up in early November. (CBC)

"I'll say, 'If you work in a Christmas store, you love everything about Christmas. And we'll never shut it off. And we might sing along too — so watch out.'"

Doucet does admit that listening to a 45-minute track of Christmas music on a loop at a mall could potentially be aggravating, but she says that there are thousands of versions of songs to suit anyone's fancy.

So when is it OK to play Christmas music?

Different countries have varying unspoken standards as to when the holiday ditties should start, according to Blair.

While the day after American Thanksgiving is the marquee moment to start playing Christmas music in the United States, it's not socially acceptable until December in the United Kingdom.

In 2014, a CBC poll found that 46 per cent of respondents said Christmas music should only play in December while 29 per cent said it could be played after Remembrance Day.

But in the Philippines, it's common to start celebrating 100 days before Dec. 25.  

No golden rule

Blair says while there is no golden rule for when Christmas music should be played, she estimates three weeks before Christmas would be acceptable.

She also suggests shop owners sprinkle in a few other melodies from different genres now and then.

The most wonderful time of the year to play holiday music varies depending on who you ask. But Linda Blair says three weeks should be a safe bet. (CBC)

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