I know that some of you are appalled. You are clutching your pearls. 

“It’s July!” you may sputter. 

I was once like you. I grew up in a “no-Christmas-music-until-after-Thanksgiving” household. We’d scoop turkey into gallon-sized ziplock freezer bags—January’s soup, casserole, and turkey pot pie. In the living room, resting from the production of making the turkey (which was accompanied by all the stress and careful precision of an Apollo rocket launch), my father would put on the first Christmas CD of the season. 

The inaugural carols of the season could not be just any CD. No! Every year we began with the honey-and-whisky voice of Nat King Cole singing “Chestnuts Roasting O’er an Open Fire.”

“How,” you may ask, “does a girl who was raised right get it so wrong?” 

Honestly, it started out as a practical productivity hack. I work in fundraising for nonprofits. The intricate process of producing and mailing tens of thousands of letters and end-of year updates, similar to the famous operation at the North Pole, requires months of work. 

Christmas spirit can be hard to muster when it’s 90 degrees out and the only precipitation is condensation rolling down your iced latte. What you need is a soundtrack. (Next time you have to do something difficult and requiring courage, put on the score to How to Train Your Dragon. You’ll see what I mean.) 

So, I began firing up nostalgic albums from my childhood in late summer as I penned glad tidings of great joy.

Over the years, I’ve come up with many more justifications, ranging from the rational to the extreme, including: 

  • Based on the shepherds being in the fields in the Christmas story, experts speculate that Jesus was probably born in the spring. So, the current date of “Christmas” is arbitrary. 
  • It’s well-known that the church set December 25 as the date of Christmas to hijack the hype of the pagan holidays of Saturnalia and the solstice. So, the current date of Christmas is arbitrary and a tool of a kind of spiritual colonialism. 
  • If you are in the habit of handcrafting overly ambitious and involved gifts for your loved ones, starting in July is behind schedule. December 26 of the previous year is behind schedule. 
  • The whole point of the second most iconic Christmas story, A Christmas Carol, is to “keep Christmas in one’s heart all the year,” lest one be roughly dragged through one’s own generational trauma at the hands of a series of bizarre houseguests. 
  • Christmas is commercialized. We know this. Charlie Brown knows this. The Grinch knows this. The seasonal nature of the holiday fuels capitalism’s capitalizing by creating a recurring market for disposable rubbish. If we want to break Christmas free of greed and consumerism, we have to break it out of the seasonal economic cycle. 

I’ve heard some good counterarguments, too. A dear friend brought up the nourishing, comforting cadence of the liturgical calendar. And yes, I see the beauty in all things in their season.

But on the other hand, the sturdy structure of liturgy and ritual is never meant as a box to contain us but as a ladder for us to climb into the mystery. Unyieldingly unimaginative application of any spiritual pattern or discipline claps the lid on revelation. And, when I am not being silly and pugnacious, my extended Christmas celebrations are a kind of spiritual practice. Being Christmas-like all year has, in some ways, been my most successful exploration into being more Christ-like. I am more full of wonder in the Christmas mood, more bent toward generosity, more childlike in all the best ways. 

But my best reason for listening to Christmas music in July is simpler and less righteous: it brings me joy. 

We have this unfortunate habit of dieting joy and worshiping scarcity. In the name of maturity, we deny ourselves gummy vitamins. We assume the things that are really good for us must be hard. We makes similar sacrifices on the altars labeled “frugality,” “professionalism,” and “not looking ridiculous,” but it’s really all the grim goddess Lack. Self-denial is enlightenment, supposedly.

And then there is the ridiculous fear breed in us of “too much of a good thing.” As if  joy was a rare resource to be conserved, as if love could be worn out. Christmas is not a fossil fuel! Neither is the pleasure of a nice bath or good conversation. Even the things that can be worn out—favorite shoes, perfume, good dishes—have, often, much longer lifespans than we expect. And I’ve found it is quite difficult to exhaust the hug capacity of someone who likes to be hugged. It’s nigh impossible to say “I love you” too many times if you mean it. 

Really good things don’t dry up like puddles, they go deeper like wells. Believe me when I say there is plenty of Christmas music to last several months. And there is probably plenty of whatever else you need but deny yourself. 

And the harmless rebellion against arbitrary rules (and the way they suddenly animate stuffy, rigid people) is also a particular, if twisted, delight. 

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