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What is Whamageddon? The viral trend that has people avoiding Wham's "Last Christmas"

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Whamageddon is upon us. The viral trend has had people avoiding Wham's 1986 song "Last Christmas" each holiday season for about 18 years. It's a simple game that has participants across the world hoping they can make it to Dec. 25 without hearing the holiday breakup ballad.

What is Whamageddon?

The game – which can be played by anyone, anywhere – kicks off Dec.1. All you have to do is avoid hearing "Last Christmas" by Wham until Dec. 25. If you make it, you win. 

The #Whamageddon hashtag has more than 12 million uses on TikTok, with people sharing videos when they "die" – or hear the song and get sent to "Whamhalla," or the end. Others, however, rejoice that they lived another day without the tune touching their eardrums.

The creators of the game, a group of friends from Denmark, have gone so far as to make an official website to teach others the rules. The one saving grace: Covers don't count. You can hear the versions by Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Megan Trainor and still stay in the game. 

Who created Whamageddon?

Four friends named Thomas Mertz, Rasmus Leth Bjerre, Oliver Nøglebæk and Søren Gelineck came up with the concept about 18 years ago, Mertz told CBS News. 

"We kind of realized this song was being played constantly, over and over. It was just in really heavy rotation," said Mertz. "And instead of getting annoyed with it, we decided to make a game out of it and have a little bit of fun."

In 2016, Mertz created a Facebook page to see if others would be interested in the annual game and it "took off," he said. 

Mertz said he has made it to Dec. 25 without hearing "Last Christmas" three times – and the most anyone has ever claimed to have made it is five times. 

While the four made up Whamageddon, Mertz said the idea isn't unique to their friend group. "For years we got emails from a group of Americans, I think out of Berkeley, who play what they would call 'The Little Drummer Boy' game," Mertz said. "And they would get upset with us each year and send like a tersely worded email about us copying them, assuming that we knew about them."

Mertz said "The Little Drummer Boy" song "is not really a thing in Denmark." "The idea in and of itself – avoid listening to a song – is not particularly deep or original. So claiming originality is something we're careful about."

So, why does the game intrigue so many to participate? "It is not easy by any measure, by any standard, but that's the fun of it," he said. "It has to be a little bit complicated, it has to be a little dangerous. It shouldn't be too easy, I think."

"What it really comes down to is having the story and this experience to share with friends and family," he said. "That's what we're seeing on our Facebook page. Once they get hit, they share the story of where they were, what they were doing, how it happened. And I think that's a really lovely thing to see."

He said the trend's attention on social media is "insane" to see. "That is absolutely wild to me," he said. "I just hope it means people are having fun and enjoying themselves."

The attention has inspired the group to sell Whamageddon merchandise and create social media pages and it even inspired a pub chain in the U.K. to remove the song from its rotation in 2018 so as not to ruin patrons' winning streaks. 

Whamageddon 2023

On Dec. 2 this year, when a DJ played the song at a soccer game in the U.K., he potentially knocked 7,000 attendees out of Whamageddon on day two of the competition.

"I never knew people took it so seriously," DJ Matty told BBC News. "I gave it a spin, thinking it would be quite funny to wipe out 7,000 people who couldn't avoid it, but clearly it isn't funny."

He said he received insults on Twitter after the gaffe. "So I officially apologize to everybody whose Christmas I've ruined," he said.

The same thing happened at a soccer game at Emirates Stadium this year, Mertz said. "It was almost 60,000 people who got subjected to the song," he said. "We have various news report alerts so we get notified if something gets posted [about the trend]." 

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