Move Over Mariah: A Pennsylvania Lottery Carol Is the Real Song That Signals the Start of the Holidays

Written By Katie Kohler on November 16, 2021
Pennsylvania Lottery Holiday commercial

The Halloween candy has yet to be fully digested before Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” starts to play on a seemingly non-stop loop. But in Pennsylvania, there is another song that signals the start of the holiday season.

“This holiday season my good friend gave to me..”

Lottery Executive Director Drew Svitko said:

“The moment they hear the carolers sing, many Pennsylvanians reflexively smile, sing along and mentally count the weeks until they can put up the tree.”

Pennsylvania Lottery’s “Snowfall” commercial (see below) features a shortened PA Lottery-inspired remix of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Because let’s face it, where the heck do you find swans a swimming in Somerset County? And is geese a-laying a good gift for a mail carrier…or anyone?

Powerball tickets, Five Cash Five

The PA Lottery Christmas carol trades out the traditional “gifts” in the song with six lottery games.

They are:

The Lottery also updates it every year with one of the featured holiday Scratch-Off games.

The original commercial, filmed in Pittsburgh, aired from 1992 to 2011. Then in 2012, the Lottery re-shot the commercial in high-def in Philadelphia.

The commercial has now weaved its way into Pennsylvania holiday tradition. You’re likely to hear it multiple times before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve and it’s a pretty safe bet that if you are spending holidays in PA, you’ll be around a “Joe” or “Rita.”

Pennsylvania Lottery holiday meme

Dan McQuade, co-founder of Defector Media shared this meme that is Pennsylvania perfection.

History of PA Lottery Holiday commercial

After working on our draft of our wish list to Santa, we had a few questions for the Pennsylvania Lottery about the uniquely Pennsylvania holiday carol. Stephanie Weyant, PA Lottery Deputy Executive Director for Marketing and Product Development, was more diligent and eager than Santa’s head elf to answer our questions.

In 2012, the ad got a revamp. What was the initial reaction and how quickly did that change?

Weyant: The Lottery reproduced the holiday commercial in 2012, after 20 seasons on the air, for high-definition video. The majority of players look forward to seeing the ad every year, so the Lottery took great care in recreating the beloved ad. By retaining the original audio track and voiceover, along with the shot-for-shot remake, we stayed true to the look and feel of the original spot. In fact, the remake stayed so close to the original, many viewers couldn’t tell the difference other than the sharper look.

Santa isn’t the only one busy in December

The commercial signals the release of the PA Lottery’s holiday-themed instant games. Do you sell more instant games from November through December than any other time of year?

Weyant: The Lottery’s holiday ad embodies the nostalgia people cherish during the holiday season. December is the Pennsylvania Lottery’s biggest selling season, as our players get into the holiday spirit and even purchase these games as gifts for family or friends. We remind the public that Lottery tickets should never be given to those who are younger than 18.

Did Pennsylvania Lottery know they had a holiday hit on their hands?

The “Snowfall” commercial and the “This holiday season my good friend gave to me….” are lyrics that mean Christmas is coming. Did you ever think this would be ingrained in PA Christmas traditions?

Weyant: We could not have imagined in 1992 that this spot would become such a holiday classic. Our goal was to make consumers aware that Lottery products can also be given as gifts. We routinely hear from players that when they see the commercial, they know the holiday season is starting. We are happy that so many players enjoy and look forward to this spot as a part of their holiday tradition.

Is Gus the Groundhog off for the holidays or is it Joe and Rita’s time to shine?

Gus is Pennsylvania’s second most famous Groundhog. But does he get jealous of “Rita” or the “five cash five” woman who is hitting the high note?

Weyant: Gus loves all things Lottery and benefitting older Pennsylvanians. He also has his very own holiday commercial where he sleds into town to see the big reveal of the new Holiday Scratch-Offs.

Katie Kohler Avatar
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Katie Kohler

Katie Kohler is a Philadelphia-area based award-winning journalist and Managing Editor at PlayPennsylvania. Katie especially enjoys creating unique content and on-the-ground reporting in PA. She is focused on creating valuable, timely content about casinos and sports betting for readers. Katie has covered the legal Pennsylvania gambling industry for Catena Media since 2019.

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