If you had to guess where the epicentre of Christmas cheer in Dublin city is, what would you say? The lights on Grafton Street? The Santa meet-up at Arnotts? The mediocre Christmas markets on Stephen's Green?
How about the tiny syndicate room stuck between some conference spaces at the Ballsbridge Hotel?
Whether on a car radio, from your co-worker's computer two cubicles down, or over the speakers at your favourite shop, you've probably been exposed to Christmas FM at some point in the last two weeks. This not-for-profit radio station operates from the end of November until Stephen's Day every year and, with the help of its dedicated staff of volunteers, brings Ireland all Christmas music, all the time. With radio frequencies reaching Dublin and about 75% of the country and online streaming services used over a million times last year alone, Christmas FM provides the backbone for Ireland's Christmas cheer – and it all comes from one hotel room.
Christmas FM, aside from giving you your holiday cheer fix at any time of day each December, runs primarily to raise awareness and funds for its charity partner. The station chooses a new partner each year, and this year, it's Age Action, a charity promoting positive ageing and better policies and services for Ireland's older citizens. The station's efforts have raised a combined half-million euros for its charity partners since 2008, and they hope to raise between €80,00 and €100,000 for Age Action this year.
The station runs entirely on the efforts of its fifty-plus volunteers – most of whom are new or experienced members of the broadcasting industry – and they all seem to have reached a consensus that the feedback from happy listeners is the best part.
Daragh O'Sullivan, one of the station's four directors, reads through the Christmas FM text line during a segment, and notes a recurring theme: 'Love the station.' 'Great cause.' 'It's making my day.' All of that feedback is fantastic, and knowing it's such a popular station is the best part," he claims, of the work that they do.
Another volunteer, Adrian Nolan, adds a similar sentiment, telling the story of an employee at the Ballsbridge Hotel who's been looking forward to the holiday station this year since "the sun was still splitting the stones."
"We held a broadcasting training course for the station in May," he explains, "and she said to me when I handed her my ticket for the car park, 'Only two hundred and some days until Christmas FM!' The next month, 'Only a hundred and seventy days!' She had a count to the day. I was here two days before we started this month, and when I handed the ticket to her, she said, 'Two more sleeps, and you're here!'"
If your Christmas spirit doesn't run quite so deep as these fans', though, worry not. You can donate to the cause online without turning the station on at all – particularly on this Thursday's Donation Day, when all efforts turn to raising maximum funds for Age Action. The glory of Christmas FM, though, is that, when you're ready for holiday tunes, it'll always be there when you want it to welcome you back.
Christmas FM can be heard on 94.3 FM in Dublin and online at christmasfm.com.