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Although Mariah Carey’s 1994 hit “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is widely recognized as the most popular original modern Christmas song, Carey herself is not recognized as the most popular modern Christmas single, at least not legally. After the singer introduced her famous “Queen of Christmas” moniker to the brand in March 2021, other holiday queens like Darlene Love expressed their displeasure.

The most active of them, Elizabeth Chan, a former media executive-turned-singer who bills herself as the only full-time musician in the Christmas music genre, addressed Carey’s efforts to sell the brand earlier this year. On Nov. 15, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board sided with Chan, officially rejecting Carey’s attempt to uniquely hold court over the holidays.

Slate caught up with Chan as the holiday season enters its final few weeks to get the full scoop on what this win means not just for the Christmas music genre, but for the expression of holiday love in general. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Nadira Goffe. When did you first start using the phrase? Christmas Queen?

Elizabeth Chan. My grandmother was definitely the queen of Christmas. When you’re the most prolific artist in a genre, you’re either the Queen of Soul or the Queen of Jazz, and for me, I started being called the Queen of Christmas in 2013-14 after my second song. radio. Every time I walked into the room, the radio executives would say, “Oh, this is Elizabeth. She is the Christmas Queen. He only does Christmas music.” I mean, I have emails from my entire career [of] people introducing me as the Christmas Queen because even if it’s March, even if it’s April, I’m still doing Christmas music. You know what I mean? It just doesn’t turn off. No, this has been my lifelong commitment for 12 years now. I have literally given up on everything and anyone who works with me knows that I am the type of person who is so dedicated to the genre of music that I am into. As a Christmas musician, there are very few places where I can… I mean, I’m not going to be, like, at any American Music Awards. I will never get the same accolades that other artists might get.

What made you decide to challenge Mariah Carey’s trademark? Christmas Queen? And what was that process like for you?

I never wanted to be in the position I was forced into this year.

And what position was that?

I’m not a litigious person. We only have time to chase our dreams. And when I found out that Mariah Carey applied for the brand, it meant that all the time I had spent, all the praise from others, would be erased. Many people think that it is me vs maria thing, but it wasn’t. It’s not about that at all. That Maria vs Everyone thing Because what he was really taking away was even your right to call me the Christmas Queen, or your right to call anyone the Christmas Queen.

The Christmas Queen is a generational thing. Even before me there was Brenda Lee, Darlene Love, and there will be one after me. No one is queen forever, not even Queen Elizabeth. Someone was trying to blatantly own a term in the public domain that many people have used for many, many reasons and are entitled to call whoever they want to call the Christmas Queen. And all he wanted was to stop.

He was going to stop time. No one behind him. In other words, it is not fair.

What is doing queen mean you?

So to me being a Christmas Queen doesn’t mean you wear a crown on your head. It doesn’t mean you are the richest, most famous person in the world. Being a queen means you give and bring people together during the holiday season. Here’s what it means to me. It’s not about how much you have. it’s how much you give that makes you known as a queen.

So how difficult was it for you to stop this attempt to trademark the term?

I had no idea what I was going to do. I had no idea about the process at all. I literally called dozens and dozens of attorneys and they told me: “Well, it’s going to be a two- to three-year process and litigation, and it’s going to cost you at least $200,000 to $250,000.” That’s for one token. And there were four that I was against. Christmas Queen, Princess Christmas, QOC:and: Christmas princess. That’s a million dollars.

But do you know how common those terms are? My daughter was known as the Christmas Princess since she was born into my world. [Chan’s daughter, aptly named Noelle, is self-credited as the “youngest Christmas songwriter ever to get one of her songs played on the radio” and inspired an upcoming book by Chan, titled The Princess of Christmas.] I literally had an Excel spreadsheet where I would just collect the names of lawyers, call them and just cross them off the list until the last call was a friend of mine who was a professor at Boston University. And I called him and said: “Hey, do you think your students could help me file a petition just to buy me time? I have to do something called a trademark challenge.” And what he did, he asked his law firm if he could represent me for free.

He knew it [Carey winning] It would be detrimental not only to my career, but to the future of Christmas and Christmas culture. Trademarking the word Christmas hard the way he applied for so many classes and so many products. That’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of things he applied for. Hundreds, not dozens. So maybe if someone wanted to make a dog collar [with QOC or any of the marks on it] And he decided. “Well, I don’t know, I don’t think you should do that,” he can take you to court for two years. Any trademark owner can take you to court to resolve it. Most small businesses would lose because they couldn’t afford the kind of litigation that he could. [In addition to dog collars, the filings also included oddball items such as various milks (including dairy-free versions), massage oils, and eyeglasses/sunglasses.]

You mentioned your identity as an Asian woman, and I can’t help but notice that Christmas music is a small field. How does your identity influence your position in Christmas music and your decision to fight the brand?

Completely. I mean, I’m half Filipino, half Chinese, but I’m an all-American girl [who grew up in the States]. And that was only when I went to the Philippines [that I] realized that as Filipinos, it is normal to listen to Christmas music from September to January. It’s very culturally acceptable to do that, right? And also, being Filipino, having this huge faith and belief in better days is just part of our culture. I mean, it’s taught in our culture to always be helpful to others and to help others and to be kind to others. It’s just part of who we are.

My godfathers were Italian and Greek. I went to a Quaker school; I grew up celebrating so many bar and bat mitzvahs. To me, the holiday season and Christmas are not just about your religion or your class or your creed. They are for everyone. Christmas belongs to everyone who believes in the spirit of the holidays. And so I think that had a huge impact on why someone like me would be so committed to Christmas music in a way that others are not. That’s what I want, is to be able to remind people at the most beautiful time of the year to remember the most important things: love, family, home, togetherness. I don’t think there are enough messages about that. And Christmas music is really the kind of music that allows us to let our walls down and celebrate those things. During this time, everyone is ready to be open to hear the message. Meanwhile, 330 days a year we are not.

What frustrates you about your “fight” against Mariah Carey?

One of the most frustrating things is that everyone thinks I’m trying to compete against someone I’ve never competed against. What I was trying to do is protect Christmas. You know, it’s not about the competition. It’s about protecting Christmas.

And if it was someone else, I’d probably do the same thing. You know what I mean? Because it has nothing to do with him. I guess what I really want to make clear is that it’s not about me or anyone else. It’s about me for Christmas.


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