If you love the holiday season, there’s nothing quite like the arrival of festive songs on the radio to get you ready for the most wonderful time of year. So, when can you expect the standard top 40 or rock and roll playlists to switch to something more holiday appropriate?
The answer depends on a range of factors.
While there are a handful of Christmas stations out there playing festive songs all-year round, most standard radio channels follow specific rules when changing their routine.
Here’s what you need to know about the arrival of festive tunes on the top radio channels.
When does Christmas music start to play on the radio?
So, when does Christmas music start playing on the radio? It all depends.
Every region and country will have specific unwritten rules about Christmas music.
While there’s no law saying you can’t play a Christmas song ahead of schedule, there are still a lot of people who consider it bad luck to listen to festive jingles too early.
Throughout the US, UK, Canada, and other regions of the world, it’s common to start playing Christmas songs around the December 1. In the USA, it’s usually alright for radio stations to start pulling out the Christmas tunes straight after Thanksgiving.
There are even a handful of radio channels ready to begin playing festive songs straight after Halloween.
In the UK, some radios compete to be the first one to play a festive track, which might mean you hear a couple of tunes making their way into the playlists earlier than usual.
What about Christmas radio stations?
The best Christmas radio stations will give you your festive fix any time of year.
Although some of us couldn’t stand the idea of listening to the same Christmas tunes all year round, there are a handful of options out there if you want Christmas vibes in July. Most of the top Christmas radio stations now operate online rather than having a dedicated FM or AM slot.
If you’re trying to figure out what channels on the radio have Christmas music in November, you might be better off looking at websites like:
- Evergreen radio: A digital radio station committed to playing non-stop, commercial-free festive songs all year.
- Radio Christmas: Run entirely by volunteers raising money to help vulnerable children in Central America, this station plays amazing Christmas songs.
- North Pole radio: Another fantastic internet radio station committed to playing non-stop Christmas songs for festive fanatics.
If you can hold on to mid-November, however, you’ll probably be able to listen to Christmas music on most standard or traditional radio stations too.
When do Christmas songs start?
Jingles and countdowns
The odd festive song will usually begin to appear in the standard radio playlists throughout November, gradually getting to the point where we hear all our favorite tunes playing non-stop throughout the December period.
The Christmas countdown shows, where radio stations play top hits from around the world on repeat, while discussing the upcoming holidays, are usually more evident in December. You might notice a few local radio stations starting a little earlier – towards the end of November.
Christmas jingles will sometimes start a little earlier than the official Christmas radio songs. After all, jingles are advertisements intended to build familiarity with an audience and improve a company’s chances of making cash.
The earlier a business gives you information about their Christmas or holiday sales, the more likely you are to buy.
Why the Pandemic Changed Things?
In general, most radio stations will begin playing their Christmas hits during December and late November – but this isn’t always the case. Radio stations across the country in America started playing Christmas music in March during 2020.
The arrival of sudden Christmas songs months before the festive season began was intended to boost spirits.
During 2020 and 2021, the pandemic caused a lot of discomfort and heartache for people all around the globe. Confined to our homes, many of us turned to the radio for solace.
When the early festive tunes began in 2020 and 2021, they weren’t 24/7. Most stations only played a handful of top songs from around the world during specific periods, like between 5pm and 5:30 – when people were more likely to be making the commute from work.
Interestingly, a lot of people did end up appreciating the Christmas tunes during the pandemic, as it helped them to feel less unusual about staying home from work. Doctors and nurses on the front lines also found the music to be appealing too, giving them something positive to enjoy.
After the pandemic Christmas music in March 2020, a lot of radio stations made the switch to festive songs at the beginning of November, rather than the end. Around 80 stations throughout the US started playing songs ahead of schedule in 2020.
But Why Do Stations Play Christmas Music Early?
When a station plays Christmas music may have nothing to do with tradition and everything to do with competition.
During the late 90s, the rise of flipping, or changing, a station’s format to an entirely Christmas-centric playlist began. Theses stations gained ratings during a crucial time in the ratings reporting period.
Once other stations noticed that their ratings were sliding, they too switched to an all-holiday format.
Success breeds competition with each station trying to one up the other stations by playing music earlier each season.
Will Christmas music start early in 2023?
With another year of challenges taking place in 2023, there’s a good chance some radio stations will want to welcome us into the festive season a little earlier than usual.
Of course, it’s difficult to know what any radio station plans on doing.
The good news for those who want to start the party themselves as soon as possible, is there are always alternative options.
Aside from listening to year-round Christmas radio stations on the internet, you could also consider things like downloading radio tracks, or even making a playlist on a service like Spotify and Pandora – so you can listen to it whenever you like.
We’d bet there isn’t too long to wait before people start counting down to Christmas, though. No matter how you feel about hearing All I want for Christmas is You a million times each day, it’s safe to say we’re all looking forward to some family time and relaxation this year.
Radio Fidelity: For the love of radio.