As a longtime strength coach, Tony Gentilcore is used to pushing his clients to their limits.
But since he began adding a Christmas song or two to the studio workout playlists he otherwise fills with heavy metal and hip-hop, he’s learned it might be possible to push too far.
“I don’t think I could pull off a full hour,” says the 41-year-old Christmas music enthusiast from Brookline, who doesn't wait much past Halloween to get his jingle on. “I think people would probably start boycotting.”
Is there anything that can summon the Scrooges quicker than early-onset Christmas music?
In recent years, entire think pieces have been devoted to determining when, exactly, it’s acceptable to begin listening. Twitter and Facebook annually fill with vitriolic posts aimed at early adopters (“If you listen to Christmas music in November, you are a psychopath,” read one recent tweet).
Last year, a UK-based psychologist went as far as to argue that listening to Christmas music too early in the season can actually be detrimental to your mental health.
Yet, for a small but dedicated contingent, the jeers and eye rolls offer little deterrence.
Yes, the jack-0’-lanterns might still be perched on doorsteps. True, Thanksgiving might be weeks away.
They just can’t help themselves.
“I’m just really into Christmas music,” says Jamie Quinn, a student at Clark University in Worcester who celebrated the first day of November by firing up a little Bing Crosby.
In New Hampshire, small business owner Robert Slye found himself asking Alexa to queue up some holiday tunes the day before Halloween.
“It’s a bug that usually hits me right about then,” he admits.
In Quincy, 25-year-old Eastern Nazarene College student Brandon Russ lets his heart guide him when it comes to the appropriate time to begin listening — which means it’s not uncommon for the holiday hits to be streaming as early as mid-October, as they were this year.
“I feel it in the weather,” says Russ, whose love of Christmas music is such that he annually presents friends and family members with a holiday music mix CD of his own creation. “If it’s in the 30s, I feel like that’s nature’s way of saying, ‘It’s cold enough to snow, you can start thinking about Christmas.’ ”
Most autumnal carol lovers seem to have been simply born with a little extra noel in their blood, but some come to it quite by accident, surprising even themselves.
Colleen Hughes typically believed that Christmas music should be avoided until Santa’s arrival at the conclusion of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But she recently turned on Christmas tunes in search of inspiration for a children’s holiday play she was writing — and discovered she couldn’t stop.
“It’s like now that I’ve started, I might as well keep going,” says the 36-year-old freelance writer and editor from Somerville.
These early starters are keenly aware that they comprise a not-very-well-tolerated minority — on the order of Yankees fans at Fenway — and many take steps to avoid notice.
Take Victoria Larocque of Lowell, 23, who hides her habit from friends and family members who don’t share her affinity.
“When I’m by myself, I have it on full blast,” she says. “And when they get home, I put it away.”
Russ opts for another strategy, easing his less festive-minded friends and family members into the music by starting with songs like “Winter Wonderland” and “Jingle Bells” that may have seasonal themes but don’t explicitly mention Christmas. This, he says, allows him to turn up the heat slowly without anyone fully realizing what’s happening — think frog-in-a-pot-of-water — while also letting him reserve some of his favorite Christmas songs for later in the season, avoiding the potential for burnout.
“You want to start out with an appetizer,” he explains. “You don’t want to gorge on the desserts in October. Start with the mozzarella sticks.”
That some aren’t quite ready to join in the rum-pa-pum-pumming isn’t exactly surprising, particularly when the holiday season seems to begin earlier each year. Last year, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Best Buy began playing Christmas music in its stores on Oct. 22, while Boston-based retailer Wayfair reported a bump in online holiday decor searches beginning in August.
The result, says UK-based clinical psychologist Linda Blair, can be a constant, stress-inducing reminder of all the holiday tasks left to be done.
“A lot of people feel very pressured by Christmas and don’t feel like they’re able to admit it,” says Blair, who drew national attention last year after arguing that holiday music can be bad for your mental state. “You’re supposed to think that Christmas is this perfect time, and it rarely is.”
Some early adopters, though, insist the music has the opposite effect — particularly in a year not exactly overflowing with good tidings and cheer.
“With everything that’s going on, I think it’s nice to have something that’s childlike and happy and just pure,” says Hughes. “And not horrible and crashing to pieces.”
For the holdouts, meanwhile, it might only be a matter of time before the season’s tunes become inescapable.
Already this month, holiday music is reportedly spilling from the speakers of various chain stores and restaurants. And Mariah Carey’s annual holiday hit “All I Want For Christmas Is You” reentered the iTunes Top 100 — a sign that Yuletide is upon us, whether we like it or not.
Like always, Russ, the Quincy college student, says he’s doing his best to respect others’ boundaries — but his restraint can only last so long.
Come Thanksgiving Day, all bets are off.
“I’m talking as soon as the fork is down after eating all that turkey,” he says, “going over to the player and just cranking it up.”Dugan Arnett can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @duganarnett.