Do you hear what I hear? Around this time of year, it could be sleigh bells or it could be the sound of a cash register.

As record sales fall, holiday albums remain high. The Billboard Hot 100 for this week features a 24-year-old Mariah Carey Christmas single at number seven. A song from Andy Williams that was released in 1963 places at number 17. Crooner Michael Bublé currently sits atop the album chart with his holiday release. And he’s just a few spots up from Pentatonix, a pop a capella group with a discography that is nearly half holiday-themed.

Meanwhile, no musician seems immune from the temptation to put on a Santa hat in the studio.

These albums and singles represent not only streams of songs, but something more coveted in the music industry — actual sales of physical media. And if you’re not streaming or buying holiday music, you’re undoubtedly hearing it. Radio stations in markets across the nation switch to all-Christmas formats this time of year. And now, listeners in Madison, Wisconsin, can choose to hear only country Christmas songs on radio.

What is it that makes so many artists want to sing about Christmas? Why not other holidays, in other times of year? And after decades of holiday hits, is there anything new to do with the genre?

Produced by Gabe Bullard.


  • Elahe Izadi Pop culture writer, The Washington Post; @ElaheIzadi
  • Chris Molanphy Pop critic and chart analyst; host, Hit Parade podcast; @cmolanphy
  • PJ Morton Musician; keyboardist with Maroon 5; @PJMorton

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