All I Want for Christmas Is Less Christmas Music: Why Holiday Music Drives You Over the Edge

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A store selling Christmas decorations in Turkey Chris McGrath/Getty

To some, the weeks after Thanksgiving are one long sonic nightmare. From hotel lobbies to convenience stores to car radios, the endless repetition is enough to drive any reasonable person to frustration:

"Last Christmas, I gave you my heart/But the very next day you gave it away..."

I am speaking about Last Christmas, a song that no person should be exposed to on loop. While individual circumstances vary, Christmas music played on repeat can be particularly taxing for some—so taxing that psychology even has a name for its effect.

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Mariah Carey, who performs "All I want for Christmas Is You" Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

As Victoria Williamson, who researches music psychology at the University of London, told NBC News, songs can produce something called the "mere exposure effect." The "mere exposure effect" reportedly describes the point of saturation that listeners experience with a particular song. The first few listens are fine, enjoyable even, maybe, but after a certain point it gets to be too much. "Anyone who has worked in a Christmas store over the holidays will know what I'm talking about," Williamson added.

She goes on to tell NBC News that, of course, there are some people who seem not to mind the constant repetition of Rudolph, Mariah and Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. A person's psychological state has a lot to do with how they'll react to music of any kind. Those who are already "stressed out about the holidays," Williamson told the network, or have painful associations with the holidays may have a harder time with it.

A separate NBC News report by a correspondent whose brother died within a week of Christmas provides an anecdote to that effect. The music might prove painful to those who have painful associations with it.

Neuropsychologist Rhonda Freeman corroborated this idea to NBC News, and added that that's why it's important for listeners to have control of the music they listen to. That can be a problem for retail workers who have very little control over what streams through their stores' speakers.

None of these reports, of course, are based on peer-reviewed scientific studies, and none particularly focused on Last Christmas (it's just a song that this reporter happens to especially despise).

You're welcome to believe what you will. There's pretty good reason to think that evidence-based reporting wouldn't persuade everyone that Last Christmas is a synth-laden crime against human ears anyway. So you can keep listening to it.

By all means.

Your choice.

Merry Christmas.