Dem’s Da Rules

It’s very easy: So long as you don’t hear “The Little Drummer Boy,” you’re a contender. As soon as you hear it on the radio, on TV, in a store, wherever, you’re out. And you record your loss on the official reporting form, then tell us all about it on the Facebook page, along with the time and place of your demise.

Special notes: You cannot be done in by anyone tricking you into hearing the dreaded tune or otherwise hitting you with it on purpose. Such exposure doesn’t count. In fact, it causes the “Hoist with His Own Petard” rule to come into play: the person who tries to take you down is officially eliminated for the attempt. Don’t let them try to tell you they’re not playing. We’re all playing, and they’ve lost. Bullies need to go down in flames and shame.

New for 2017 is the “Won’t Somebody Think of the Musicians?” rule. You cannot terrorize musicians in an attempt to de-Boy their set lists ahead of a concert you’re attending. It’s very cool of Aimee Mann, Randy Newman, Jeff Tweedy, and Lo Moon to do WFUV’s Holiday Cheer benefit concert, for instance. Please don’t harass them on Twitter, say, to make them promise that they won’t play the dreaded tune. It confuses and annoys the players, who have no idea why you’re hassling them, and violates the spirit of the game. OK, I’ll get down off my pedestal now.

New for 2018 is the “Blurred Lines” rule. It used to be that interpretations of the song counted as lethal, while parodies were safe. Now, anything with the recognizable LDB tune — even if it’s just a short sample or sequence — takes you out of the game. It’s a little tougher, but also a lot simpler. (And yes, there may still be case-by-case exceptions, but otherwise? If you recognize even a snippet of the tune, you’re a goner. So, for example, Missy Elliott‘s “Work It” does not count because she just speaks a brief puh-rum-pum-pum-pum without ever singing it. But Beck‘s “Little Drum Machine Boy” counts because it includes the tune.)

New for 2023 is the “Bada Bing” rule. It doesn’t matter if you swear you only heard Bowie singing the “Peace on Earth” part. Der Bingle is singing the dread tune behind him, so it counts. If you hear anything after the instrumental intro with the “Peace on Earth” notes, it counts.

Also: After years of being asked, we’ve put together a handy list of deadly movies, TV episodes, specials, ads, and more. Learn it of you want to live, and feel free to submit anything we’re missing.

What’s the time frame? The game begins the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) at 12:01 am local time and continues until 11:59 pm, Dec. 23. If you haven’t been puh-rum-pum-pum-pummed, you win. For this year, anyway.

85 thoughts on “Dem’s Da Rules

  1. Hey, furthering the “don’t terrorize the musicians” rule, what if you are a musician and TLDB is on a set list for a concert in which you’re performing? If you have no control over that, should you be disqualified simply for rehearsing and playing the tune when your only other option is to quit?

    • Sadly, you have to take the hit, Marfa. Because the game is about not hearing the song as you go about your daily life (aside from tweaks such as wearing earbuds, etc.), if your daily life includes not being able to avoid it, you’re toast. It’s not pretty, I know. But it’s the world we live in.

  2. Wow! That sucks. I think Marfa et al deserve a LDB pass. I think any musician, performer, singers, bell ringer or anyone else forced to perform this appalling piece of music for the enjoyment and enhancement of others during this Christmas season should not be held accountable for somebody else’s poor taste. Not fair to those who make a living performing for others. As for the rest of us…tough shit.

    • It’s pretty bad if you are a working musician during Christmas season. There’s usually no hope. Not only do you take yourself out, but you can take out dozens or even hundreds depending on the size of the venue. It’s like being a musical suicide bomber.

  3. Does reading the pa-rum-a-pum-pums count? I read Julia Wirtz’s comic strip “Christmas Spirit” in “The Fart Party: Vol 1” and “Museum of Mistakes”, and it has them “rump-pa-pumming”.

  4. I think if you’re going to, explicitly, a Christmas Carol concert — or anywhere else where you are a captive audience — you should be exempt from that instance. The spirit as I understand it is that you must not hear it in a public context [shopping mall, grocery store, randomly wandering caroling group, etc]. Hearing it while held captive is like being herded into a stadium en masse and shot…

  5. Huh. And I was just complaining that I didn’t hear the song this year & the movie wasn’t available free. So I sang it “a little” in the car. Hehe. Does that count as a win for me, loss for peeps in car who heard me sing it?

  6. I was walking around all innocent looking at stuff at the 99cent only store and i heard Christmas music coming from the store speakers and i remembered, “oh my gosh, its that time again that little crack head bastard is gonna try to kill me and ruin my holidays”!!! Not again, not this year. Im gonna beat him again

  7. Question:
    I heard a snippet of Manheim Steamroller’s LDB, but only a few seconds of the song, and only the “Hark! There Herald Angels Sing” part of the medley. Therefore, no LDB melody, yet.
    Am I out?

  8. Has anyone made an official call as to whether the “Little Drum” track from the Charlie Brown Christmas special counts? No lyrics, and *both* the rhythm and melody are adjusted, but it’s certainly based on the hated tune. Part of me thinks that because it sounds great, it must definitionally be sufficiently removed from the Boy to be safe. The other part of me is a hard-ass and believes we all deserve to suffer and die, even when listening to the sublime stylings of Vince Guaraldi. …Guidance?

    (ACBC is one of the few Christmas albums I would listen to on purpose, start to finish, but I will preemptively nix this track if it’s going to take me out.)

    • So I am curious. I have heard two start dates. I was under the impression that it starts AFTER Thanksgiving. Another website states that it starts November 1st. What is the official Start date? I have already lost EXTREME for this year because of the show Yellowstone. But PLEASE tell me the official start date is November 27th.

  9. Situation… (#askingforafriend)

    Hit mute before Gladys even finished all of the first word “Co…”

    Saw the title on the satellite radio display before any music played

    I’m feeling the spirit and ruling that this was a near miss. Thoughts?

    • You’re out. The rules clearly state: “If you recognize even a snippet of the tune, you’re a goner.” Since you were able to tell us the story of how you stopped it before the first word completed, you clearly heard enough to recognize the snippet.

      Tough break. My condolences.

      • I would disagree. She said she turned it off before hearing any music because she saw the title on the screen.

        “Hit mute before Gladys even finished all of the first word “Co…”

        Saw the title on the satellite radio display before any music played.”

        I know this is 2 years old but for anybody reading this today she would have still been in.

  10. For next year, may I recommend that an ending time just before midnight be specified? The problem is that there’s some ambiguity as to what day “midnight” is part of. For example, in 24-hour time, midnight is represented as 00:00, and is the start of the day, so saying “midnight 12/23” means the time when 12/23 starts, and not ends. Under this interpretation, LDBC is done when the calendar flips from 12/22 to 12/23, and I suspect that that is not what you intend.

    Something like “11:59:59 PM 12/23” make the ending much clearer.

    I don’t like referring to Wikipedia, but there is a section on its “Midnight” page that covers such ambiguities.

    • Hi, Nick. Funny thing is that those were the rules before, from 12:01 am on Black Friday to 11:59 pm on Dec. 23, and I changed the language to “simplify” things. Of course, I merely created more confusion. So I think I’ll go back to that next year. Thanks for weighing in.

  11. First time player,here. 5 hours til the whistle.. I heard it on the radio on my way home from Thanksgiving dinner, so I need to be more vigilant in my radio choices.. Good luck out there!!!

  12. As I was explaining the rules to my wife, she sang the line of the song to confirm it was the song to avoid. She wasn’t intentionally trying to sabotage me, but was trying to be certain of the song to avoid. Does this count as being out.

  13. Ahhh, I goofed. I said it was DW Shoe Store that took me down, when it was really Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse that did the dirty deed. Any way to change my survey results?

  14. So if someone playing the game is out, and they purposly send you a video of people singing the song, and I open the video, NOT knowing what it is, AM I OUT??????

    • If they sent it to you in order to take you down, it doesn’t count, Lisa. But the game ended at midnight last night, so if it happened after that, it doesn’t matter anyway. Either way, if you didn’t hear it any other time, you won!

      • Thanks, He sent it about 10 days ago, so yipeee, I just got lucky the rest of the time, since I assumed I was out, I never heard it once , WINNER

  15. I survived one more year. My record is 3 wins 1 loss. On December 25th at 6:51pm pst i finally heard it on KYXY. So close bit surived

  16. Since there appears to be no rules governing the actions of DJs, I have taken it upon myself(along with several others) to be the Krampus for the challenge. Much like bands, we are often called upon to include ldb in our Christmas sets.
    As such, not only are we therefore by definition exempt from losing the game, it is our sworn duty to increase the level of difficulty.
    Particularly in 2020, when the number of locations not under individual control is severely reduced due to Covid restrictions.

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  20. I was told that LDB played in the background of a TV show we just watched, but I wasn’t paying attention to the incidental music and totally didn’t register it. Am I in or out if it was playing but I didn’t notice it at the time and was only informed afterwards?

  21. Ok husband and I are disagreeing on the song Sugar and Booze by Anna Gasteyer. There is a reference to little drummer boy and I feel it counts. He feels it fits the missy elliott rule.

  22. Gearing up for this year’s Challenge, I’m reminded how I was taken out last year by an Alexa device. Just days before victory I was having a holiday beverage with friends. I was explaining the Challenge. My friend’s Alexa device must have heard me because just then, the device played the Pentatonix version of the dreaded song. I was toast. So be careful… treat The Little Drummer Boy like Sauron or Voldemort. Do not dare utter his name.

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  24. I think I already know the answer… but say you find yourself whispering it to yourself while doing some online Christmas shopping… not out loud, but whispering, does that still count as a loss?

    • If you can hear it, then it’s a loss. If not, then it’s not. Ultimately, it’s an honor system. You can cheat yourself if you want, but if you know you heard it, only you can hold yourself accountable.

      (Jeez, do I sound like a guidance counselor, or what?)

      • Thanks for your guidance! I am going to count it, then that way I can not stress out the rest of the season, especially since I have a few airport trips coming up! I think this’ll be a record of the shortest time I’ve lost the challenge—9 hours!

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