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Tuesday, November 30, 2021
The independent student publication of The Unversity at Buffalo, since 1950

Christmas music gets a bad ‘wrap’

Why I still like Christmas music even though my family imploded on Christmas

I love Christmas music.

I listen to it year-round. My friends groan when they get into my car in July and Sia’s “Candy Cane Lane” is blasting from my speakers.

But it makes me happy, even though it probably shouldn’t.

In December 2017, my parents separated. 

I remember sitting in my room the week before school let out for winter break. I had just gotten home from track practice. Our house was decorated for Christmas and my  three-foot-tall artificial tree, passed down from my grandmother, stood twinkling in my alcove window. I was sitting on my bed, doing some homework or reading a book. My mom walked in and laid down next to me.

I remember thinking it was strange. My mom is not a hugger and, while she was still affectionate growing up, I knew something about the way she held me — arms wrapped around my frame which, after 17 years, had grown taller than her, stroking my hair the way a mother would a toddler who’d bumped her head — meant that something was wrong. Very wrong.

What she said exactly, I don’t remember, but she was leaving and there was nothing I could do about it.

That Christmas morning, my family of five sat around the dining room, strewn across chairs and sprawled out on the hardwood, not knowing how much the others knew about how soon our nuclear family would detonate. I feigned holiday cheer, “oo-ing” and “ah-ing” as we tore open gift boxes and emptied our stockings. 

And by New Years, she was gone.

Christmas was different after that. My dad usually picks up overtime on Christmas morning. He doesn’t get a tree anymore, so we all meet at my mom’s house. My parents and siblings descend upon her quiet neighborhood in the late morning. Her driveway isn’t big enough to fit all of our cars and there’s no streetside parking, so by noon, her front lawn looks like a used car lot.

After she left, I was put in a tough position; the oldest daughter, I felt compelled to, no, obligated to assume the role as nurturer. I pestered my siblings to finish their homework and clean up around the house, stretching myself thin to patch the hole left in our family. 

But no matter how overwhelmed and hollow I felt, I knew I would always have the soothing sound of Pentatonix’s “Hallelujah” to sing me to sleep when times got tough.

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I guess I find it a little odd that I cling so desperately to the music that reminds me of such a sad time in my life. But there is something so overwhelmingly joyous about festive music.

It’s gaudy and overproduced and gimmicky, but it’s also so… emotional. 

Christmas music almost universally centers around concepts like love, loss, family and friendship. Whether it’s pop hits like Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas,” or classics like “Auld Lang Syne,” Christmas music is dramatic, and that’s why I love it. It can range from upbeat anthems to slow and dreary ballads and all fit nicely into one playlist.

Christmas music is consistent. Sure, it’s the same every year, but that’s also why I love it. While my family and friendships may have changed, Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” never will, something I find particularly comforting. 

I’ve used it to cope; throwing a holiday mix in my earbuds while walking through school, or blasting it at full volume on my car speakers on the highway, has gotten me through divorse, death and heartbreak. December always passes and with it, the carols that play constantly over department store speakers. The snow melts, and the flowers begin to bloom, welcoming in spring. 

But I’m still listening.

Reilly Mullen is the editor in chief and can be reached at reilly.mullen@ubspectrum.com 


REILLY MULLEN
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Reilly Mullen is the editor-in-chief for The Spectrum. She double majors in English and political science. She enjoys Dunkin' iced lattes, arguing with frat boys and buying cool shoes. A former web, features and news editor, she write columns about her chronic illnesses and taking down the patriarchy. 

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