Kristin Bingham, co-owner of Dean’s Sweets in Portland, loves to hear Christmas music at work and plays it “intensively” for a month. Photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Loving Christmas music is not officially a job requirement for people who work at Dean’s Sweets in Portland, but it might as well be.

“Starting Dec. 1, we play all Christmas music, and we play it intensively,” said Kristin Bingham, co-owner of the Portland chocolatier. By intensively, Bingham means all day long and everything from Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” to actor William Shatner’s “Shatner Claus” album. She said her co-workers “kind of have to like Christmas music if they want to survive the season.”

Christmas music is everywhere this time of year – on radio stations, in stores and on people’s Spotify playlists. While most of us can turn off the holiday tunes we find too schmaltzy or irritating, there are people who literally listen to Christmas music for a living, namely sales clerks and radio deejays. Is the barrage of seasonal selections from Andy Williams, Mariah Carey and Wham! enough to make them tear down the tree topper, or do they relish the chance to belt out “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” at the top of their lungs?

Retailers and radio hosts say Christmas music is probably more welcome this year than ever, providing a dose of joy and silliness amid the sobering news of the ever-worsening pandemic. At least a couple of Maine radio stations switched to all-Christmas music formats in early November this year, citing the tough year we’re all having.

Barbora McCrillis, store manager at Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine, likes to hear Christmas music while working, but maybe not all the time. Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Holiday music helps brighten spirits and remind people of Christmas during normal times, some retailers said. But even people who love Christmas music or feel it’s needed this year admit it can be a little much to have to listen to it every working hour.

“We get a little tired of it sometimes, so we put Pandora on shuffle and get something besides Christmas music. Sometimes customers appreciate that we’re playing something else, and they’ll say, ‘Thank goodness you’re taking a break,’ ” said Barbora McCrillis, manager of Lisa-Marie’s Made In Maine store in Portland. “Personally, I enjoy it, but I know there are people who look forward to it and some who dread it. In a retail situation, it mostly puts people in a good mood.”

At Mexicali Blues, a clothing and jewelry store with locations around Maine, general manager Chris Cummings said customers who are not usually big fans of Christmas music are saying how much they’re enjoying the in-store tunes this year. Mexicali Blues stores don’t start playing Christmas music until Dec. 1 and then slowly mix in Christmas tunes, increasing the percentage as the weeks go on. So, by Christmas, the store is having a “full audio celebration” of the season, Cummings said.

Cummings is a fan of classic Christmas songs by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, and enjoys having Christmas music at work, but at least partially because it’s not on all the time, all month long.

Jaad Naamani is doing his first all-Christmas music stint this year on Portland radio station WHOM. Photo courtesy of Townsquare Media

That’s not the case for deejays at some Maine radio stations. At least a couple that play an all-Christmas music format switched over in early November, instead of waiting until after Thanksgiving. Portland’s lone all-Christmas station, WHOM (94.9 FM), made the switch on Nov. 6. Herb Ivy, the station’s operations manager, said station management felt like, this year, people could use an early start on “holiday cheer and positivity.” Bangor station The Wave (94.1 FM) flipped the Christmas switch on Nov. 3.

Matt Knight, a station deejay and assistant programming director at The Wave, said for him, listening to Christmas music all the time can “get old quick,” especially since the station has a finite rotation of about 200 holiday songs. Because of his programming duties, he has to listen to the station even when he’s not on the air.

“Because I’m listening all day, I think to myself, ‘Didn’t we play that five minutes ago?’ when it was actually hours ago,” said Knight. He says he’s generally a fan of the genre, but prefers up-tempo tunes to somber ballads. He especially enjoys hearing from listeners with stories about how certain songs remind them of a specific Christmas memory.

Another deejay at The Wave, who goes only by Lisa G, said she looks forward to playing Christmas music on her daily show. She’s been on radio for more than 25 years, and all-Christmas formats became popular in the early 2000s, so she’s heard a lot of holiday songs. She says she might turn the monitor in the studio down – so she can’t hear it – during certain songs.  One she cannot stand is “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” from the classic TV special “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

“That one really gets under my skin,” she said.

Mandy Exly on Maine’s KISS-FM loves Christmas music so much she plays it at home too. Photo courtesy of KISS-FM

At WHOM, morning host Jaad Naamani is in his first year of playing all Christmas music. So far, the Dover, New Hampshire, native is enjoying it, at least partly because it’s his first holiday season back in New England after living in Oklahoma. He says “it’s almost impossible” to not be in a good mood when it’s on.

When asked if all the holiday tunes might sometimes drive him crazy, Naamani compared listening to Christmas music nonstop to binge-watching a favorite series on Netflix.

“You’ll watch for hours at a time, but every now and then, you need a little breather. That said, during those ‘breathers,’ I generally will still be singing along to songs, so I guess the short answer is no, it doesn’t,” he said.

Mandy Exly, an on-air host on Maine’s KISS-FM, says she loves Christmas music so much, she plays it on air and at home. The station, which can be heard on three frequencies from Bangor and central Maine to the midcoast, began playing all Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving.

Though she loves holiday music generally, she’d rather not hear some of the sad tunes that are often played on radio, like “The Christmas Shoes,” a song about a young boy wanting to buy a pair of shoes for his terminally-ill mother.

“I don’t care to hear that one, and a few others, so I can turn the sound down if I want,” Exly said. “But most Christmas music makes me happy.”


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