One morning this week I stopped by a local Brooklyn liquor store, to buy Hanukkah gifts for my aunt and my cousins. As I checked out the kosher liqueur section, I noticed something unusual about this shop: there was no music playing. All I could hear was the day-to-day noise emanating from the street outside.

It seems as if every other store I frequent has a soundtrack, with music playing, especially because it is holiday shopping time. And as it is December, I hear a seemingly endless soundtrack of holiday music.

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In most Brooklyn stores the music is heavy with (or exclusively) Christmas music. I visited both major supermarkets in my area and both featured Christmas music. One, ShopRite, played mostly smooth-jazz and folksy guitar versions of Christmas songs, sans vocals. To most ears this is fairly innocuous music.


I stopped inside a local discount store and heard a version of “Silent Night” and I admit that I found it a bit irksome. (Whoever the vocalist was, she was no golden throat.) In Brooklyn you tend to hear less of that kind of music, and more of the cutesy pop holiday tunes that are not overtly religious.

But then again, in my neighborhood in Brooklyn as well as others that are heavily Jewish, you walk into stores and hear lots and lots of Hanukkah music. I enjoy much of that (although how many “Sevivon” medleys must I endure?) and I do hear a mix of instrumental and vocal selections. I also wonder how non-Jews react when they come into stores that pipe the Hanukkah music. Do they think, hmm, cute? Will they hum along? Are they surprised that there is more to Hanukkah music than “Dreidel”? Do they wonder when the “Little Drummer Boy” acoustic guitar rendition will kick in? Do most people even care about what music is played over the sound system?

Stores usually play music for business reasons; upbeat music is supposed to put shoppers in a positive frame of mind, a buying frame of mind. And at holiday time, when many businesses tally up a large portion of their yearly sales, music can serve as a bolster to purchasing. You do not need an MBA from a prestigious university to know that.

That is why the liquor store seemed to be an anomaly to me. Did the fellow at the front counter just want peace and quiet? Didn’t he anticipate my secret desire to hear “Al Ha Nissim” or “Winter Wonderland” while I shopped for gifts in his store? Nope, he cherished the peace of no music!


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