Yes, I did it...just today! I confess I've not yet found the cassette tapes (they're in a case buried somewhere on a closet shelf) but I got the Christmas CDs out early this evening and began playing Christmas music while cleaning up the kitchen after dinner.
I always feel a kind of need to justify myself in this practice of listening to Christmas music even prior to Advent. My slight guilt is due to a combination of factors. The first is that my mom had a "rule" when I was growing up, or at least during the years of my adolescence (perhaps as a result of me dragging out the Christmas albums too early in preceding years) that I couldn't get the Christmas music out until we'd finished washing the Thanksgiving dishes. Maybe this was her way of making sure I helped with the dishes! Or maybe she was trying to teach me a lesson in delayed gratification. Or perhaps she just wasn't ready to grit her teeth through numerous play-throughs of the old Firestone Christmas albums, which were my favorites. One of these days, I should probably ask her...though it might take the mystery out of the question.
At any rate, for years I had an ingrained habit of not playing Christmas music until Thanksgiving night. Then in my 20s, I joined the Anglican tradition and became a much more "liturgically minded" Christian. Suddenly I was worshipping in churches that didn't play Christmas music at all -- until Christmas day itself. Talk about delayed gratification! Of course what that opened up for me was a whole new world of music as I began learning advent hymnody and appreciating the glories of that beautiful season of waiting and expectancy. Some of the music I now get out in November is advent music.
So there you have it. By training and by adopted tradition, there is much in me that says "you shouldn't do this yet." And yet...as I get older, as I get wiser (?let's hope!) there is a part of me that grows more child-like. That's deepened even more since I've become a mother. I love the sheer joys of Christmas music. The exuberance and simplicity of the hymnody. I even love the simple frivolities of some secular (especially more traditional songs) the ones that celebrate the beauties of family and winter.
I feel like I am growing more simple and less sophisticated the older I get. And the child-like part of me longs to squeeze out every drop of light and joy I can from this beautiful season. That's deepened since I've lived in a part of the country that has cold, dark, long winters -- I need this kind of light and joy, starting now and often lasting long into the winter days, well past the time when I used to put the music away. My longing to celebrate Christmas has also deepened as my understanding of the import of the incarnation has deepened -- truly this is the turning point of all human history, the moment when God took on flesh and entered fully into the life of humanity. Everything that comes after it -- the cross, his rising -- is dependent on this moment, when heaven and earth meet and earth is caught up in God's redemptive plan. It is rich, it is deep, it is mystery, and it needs to be celebrated...not just one day of the year, but every day. ("I will keep Christmas in my heart!")
So there you have it. The Christmas music is playing; it's ready for me to pack to take with us on our Thanksgiving trip. And I am smiling with the joy of hearing.