When is the best time to put Xmas decorations up at home?
December 1, 2005 12:19 PM   Subscribe

Is December 1st too early to put Xmas decorations up at home?

My wife and I agree on most stuff, but we have hit a major difference of opinion here. We generally spent our child-less christmas holidays at parents, but this will be our first extended Xmas at home - with a 2 year old - and we are both looking forward to properly decorating our flat for the first time. We both enjoy Xmas as a secular holiday and an opportunity to see friends and family, as opposed to a frenzy of food, drink and consumer spending - and live in the UK (so will keep decorations up until the traditional 12th Night, which is longer than is the case in the USA as far as I know)

I remember Christmas being all about the anticipation, and the weekend before Xmas or after school finished (whichever came first) would be when the decorations went up. My wife is keen to get everything up NOW though, and prolong the fun for as long as possible. Compromise seems unlikely at present! Am I being 'pretentious' and a 'killjoy'? Or should I stick to my guns? I'm prepared to give a week maybe but I don't seem to be getting anywhere...
posted by barnsoir to Home & Garden (29 answers total)
People here in the US seem to have their decorations up now. Myabe you could split it. Decorations up now, tree decorating waits until the week before?
posted by jessamyn at 12:24 PM on December 1, 2005

We're putting ours up tomorrow. Would have been today, but I was too lazy...

I'm also in the UK and get annoyed with the Christmas obsession starting before even Halloween, but I think once it gets to December it's OK to start being Christmassy.
posted by speranza at 12:24 PM on December 1, 2005

In the Uk, I'd delay the pleasure a week more at least. Spend some more time picking out decor, book out a night to warm the mince pies, mull the wine and get the carols on the stereo and really enjoy it. Xmas will come a lot quicker once they are up. We're doing ours next weekend!
posted by brautigan at 12:25 PM on December 1, 2005

Here in California, my boyfriend is a Christmas nazi. The stores start putting up decorations before Halloween, but at our house, the decorations go up the day after Thanksgiving, and the tree comes home the first or second weekend in December. This seems to be a general consensus among everyone I know.

In actuality, putting up decorations is a lot of work and takes two weeks to get it all done. I usually just change the tablecloth to red the day after Thanksgiving and do the rest when I have time. Having the decorations up gets us into a holiday spirit. In addition to that, wrapping presents, baking cookies and getting cards ready to send out takes almost an entire month, and the decorations absolutely have to be put up before you can start Christmas-y things like that. So I'll go with "killjoy" and advise you to give in to the fun.
posted by booknerd at 12:26 PM on December 1, 2005

We put up our decorations last weekend, which is the earliest ever for me. Traditionally, my family has cut down the tree over Thanksgiving (US), and then put it up two weeks later. Now with a fake tree, we decided to do it earlier.

Actually, the decorations and holiday music has helped to bring up the spirits from the long nights here in Wisconsin.
posted by RobbyB at 12:26 PM on December 1, 2005

Interesting question, since I'm sitting down to rest after finishing my decorating. However, our decorations are pretty simple and we're not doing a tree this year.

That said, I like decorating earlier rather than later because it is a lot of work and it seems silly to put them up only to take them down again a week or two later. I grew up in a last-minute family and always hated the fact that it seemed like our decorations were only up for about five minutes.

So do some now, and then do the tree in a week or two. Or opt for some "seasonal" decorations, not just Santas and/or Baby Jesuses. Snowflakes, snowmen and outdoor scenes can be left up well into January, giving you the most bang for your Christmas buck.
posted by wallaby at 12:45 PM on December 1, 2005

In our family, we can start decorating/playing Christmas music after Thanksgiving. Not at all before. But after our Thanksgiving dinner, my dad puts on "Chestnuts Roasting on An Open Fire" to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season. So I say, get in the spirit, put up the decorations, and try to have fun.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:46 PM on December 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

We put up our decorations after Thanksgiving, either the day after or that following weekend; and take them down after New Year's Day. I like the festive decorations to celebrate the whole month. Otherwise, it's like why bother to put them up at all, if you're just going to take them down two weeks later.
posted by cass at 1:05 PM on December 1, 2005

When the kids lived at home, we used to decorate on the first weekend in December. Now, we tend to decorate whenever the first kid shows up for Christmas vacation. The last day to put up decorations is, in my opinion, Christmas Eve or the date of your Christmas party (if you're having one), whichever is earlier. The earliest Date is the 1st of December, except in America where 'any time after Thanksgiving' seems okay.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:08 PM on December 1, 2005

No, 12/1 is not too early, but it is the earliest allowed.

I figure if I'm buying Christmas presents, it's Christmas season. If it's Christmas season, I might as well have lights up. Since I like lights. They make me happy.
posted by smackfu at 1:09 PM on December 1, 2005

We decorate as soon as possible after Thanksgiving, but never before.

No Christmas music is allow earlier than that, either.
posted by unixrat at 1:11 PM on December 1, 2005

This is one of those tough decisions. Some familes are day after Thanksgiving-types (US), some are 4 weeks before Christmas types, and others are night-before-Christmas families. I grew up in a weekend-after-Thanksgiving family, myself, and my wife's kinfolk were a few-days-before-Christmas people. When you mix two traditions together, you just need to decide what kind of family you are going to be and start building your own family traditions. Your child will grow to love the tradition... whatever it is!
posted by Tallguy at 1:16 PM on December 1, 2005

I think I echo the general sentiment here that if you have waited until after Thanksgiving you've waited long enough. Just because Hallmark thinks there are no holidays between July 4th and December 25th doesn't mean the rest of us want to look at Xmas ornaments in August.

I also advocate maintaining separate holiday decorations for separate holidays - no goddamn "easter lights" or "halloween ornaments". Ornaments and lights are for December only. Pumpkins in October, bunnies in the spring, flags in the summer, turkey in November. This mixing and extending of the holidays is just going to end with some crazy bastardized mixup of a holiday years from now when kids will dress up in masks and lights and go door to door begging for chocolate turkeys to hang on the Valentines tree every weekend.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:17 PM on December 1, 2005

I say yes, but then again I also say that Christmas doesn't begin until December 25th.

I remember Christmas being all about the anticipation, and the weekend before Xmas or after school finished

Advent. Advent is about anticipation. That's why people sing Come O Long Expected Jesus up until Christmas Eve midnight mass. American retailers in order to sell more shit have eroded the real December holiday season of Advent.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:28 PM on December 1, 2005

Short and sweet of it: make your spouse happy. Especially if in other cases she's given in to your wishes on disputes like this.

It's very little things like this that go a long way towards bliss.
posted by voidcontext at 1:44 PM on December 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

We've always waited 'til Saint Nicholas' Day: Dec. 6. It gives you a breather after Thanksgiving, it prolongs the anticipation just a bit, and it still gives you plenty of time to enjoy the decorations. And the kids always got their stockings on St. Nick's Day.
posted by bricoleur at 1:53 PM on December 1, 2005

Compromise. This Sunday (the first Sunday of Advent) put up all your decorations except the tree. Decorate the tree later (we do the German thing and wait til Xmas Eve, then leave the decorations up til January 6).

I'm not the slightest bit religious (or German - that's my wife and her family), but I get a real buzz out of the extended anticipation offered by the Advent calendar and German Xmas traditions like St Nicholas' Day on December 6. Getting it all out of the way on Xmas Eve is great too - makes for a very relaxed Xmas Day of sleeping in, grazing and watching the kids.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:57 PM on December 1, 2005

Yup, like most people here the day after thanksgiving is fine, anything before, criminal.
posted by justgary at 2:09 PM on December 1, 2005

I used to feel the way you do. But I've changed.
Life is short, and this season is short. And beautiful. What is to be gained by delaying ourselves the pleasure of the decorations, fragrances, aromas of Christmas?

It doesn't take away from my enjoyment to extend the season by 20 days or so. It makes it feel more worthwhile, and allows more time for reflection. It also allows me to appreciate the pleasures of the holidays more langorously. In the past, I remember trying to cram in all the tastes, songs, plans. and experiences into the 12 or 18 days surrounding the 25th. It all too often felt rushed and forced. By taking it slowly, I can really enjoy each ceremony and each tradition quite a bit more. It is truly a season.

Rather than a sympton of modern-day excess, I think "extended Christmas" is simply a return to pre-Industrial traditions. When Europeans were still ruled by an agricultural calendar, the harvest-into-Solstice-into New Year was a two-month respite from hard outdoor labor. and a time to enjoy all the fruits of the summer while they were still fresh and abundant. Everyone know that deep winter and early spring, the 'starving time' , was just around the corner, when food supplies would dwindle and the weather would be its most harsh. So there was no guilt in enjoying the bounty of this season while there was so much to celebrate.

Two hundred years ago, the festivities surrounding the late-fall/early-winter holidays were enjoyed for weeks at a time. Holdovers from pagan times pepper our traditions today and were very much present then. The idea that anticipation, self-denial, and waiting are an important part of the holiday comes from Catholicism, where it has religious justification as a symbolic re-enactment of the world's wait for the Messiah. I can appreciate that thought, but my Christmas is pretty ecumenical and largely secular, so I can take note of the idea without it governing my choices. Here in America, the Separatist Puritans of the 16 and 1700s didn't celebrate Christmas at all and frowned on others doing so. Christmas crept back in slowly with the relaxing of Puritan mores and the influx of European immigrants. I think it's natural that the holiday continues to expand to fill its ancient role in our lives.

Go ahead and enjoy. At the end of your life, you won't be wishing you had celebrated less.
posted by Miko at 2:53 PM on December 1, 2005 [2 favorites]

As a kid I always enjoyed the build up and anticipation more than the event.

I'm with Pollomacho about the importance of the notion of advent. If you go into many traditional churches at this time of year you will hear a big festival at the end of November (the festival of Christ the King) and then 3 weeks of plainsong and minimalism leading up to Christmas Eve. Only then to the carols come along. Advent is actually a slow build rather than an all out fast: so you gradually light candles on the advent crown and decorations to the tree.

Even if you want nothing to do with Christianity there is always the notion of Yule - but here the big deal is also about the days starting (just) to get longer again so again you would do nothing until after the winter solstice.
posted by rongorongo at 3:02 PM on December 1, 2005

My girlfriend and I have had the same issue. I simply have not celebrated Christmas at all in the past, no presents, no decorations, and no taking days off. However, we've moved in together and she's adamant about it.

I've caved in and figured that if it doesn't hurt, and she doesn't mind doing all the decorations, she can go for it! She's pretty happy :) It's not going to kill ya, as long as you make sure you're not getting involved in tending to it all.
posted by wackybrit at 3:13 PM on December 1, 2005

My mother devised a Christmas strategy when we were small and I plan to follow it now that I'm a mother. She puts something up every day so that each decoration can be enjoyed -- and kids can be kept busy. It's like a living advent calendar. Only the Christmas tree, lights and miniature Christmas tree have fixed dates. The rest vary according to her wishes. On December 1st, the Christmas lights go up. The next day, the wreath. On the 3rd, the streamers. All the Santa figurines the next day. Then the snowmen. And the angels. The creche. The holly. So on and so forth. The miniature Christmas tree. always puts the Christmas tree up on December 18th and leaves it up until 12 days after Christmas. Once the tree day arrives, carols are permitted.

She also incorporated activities. This might have included making Christmas wrap, baking cookies and other goodies, making and jarring nuts and bolts, going to the woods to get evergreens, getting holly from my grandparents' holly tree, etc. As we got older, the activities became more complex. It was a great way to keep up busy, keep Christmas decorations from appearing all at once, and enjoy a lead-up to the holiday. And it allowed my mom to get a lot of stuff done while getting us kids to think it was all fun! :)
posted by acoutu at 3:29 PM on December 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

We have a 2-year-old. It would make her very happy to have the decorations up now. We're putting them up this weekend.
posted by teddymac at 5:13 PM on December 1, 2005

I often stage it. Anytime in November to start getting seasonal. Anytime after Thanksgiving to get all Christmassy. Then ease out of it after the New Year.

But YMMV, since to some of us Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ, so it's worth celebrating quite a bit more than it would be if it was just the season of empty consumerism.

FWIW, people decorate at different times depending on time, family traditions, etc. Ranges between after Halloween and a couple weeks before Christmas.

Advice - err on the side of making her happy and just enjoy her happiness.
posted by mumeishi at 8:52 PM on December 1, 2005

will keep decorations up until the traditional 12th Night, which is longer than is the case in the USA as far as I know

Ha. I frequently keep my Christmas tree up through January. As for Christmas decorations, why not go the college-route and keep the lights up year-round? Saves you the trouble of putting them up and taking them down each year.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:32 PM on December 1, 2005

Dude, next year your kid will be begging for decorations from about March. Tell your wife you will absolutely do 1st of December from next year till your kid out grows them, but this is your last year of Christmas sanity and you will wait a week or so before you put them up.
On the bright side, when your kid gets into the whole thing you will relive the anticipation and excitement you felt as a child ten times over.
I'm a cynical atheist, but love Xmas for the excitement it brings to my (little) kids.
posted by bystander at 5:15 AM on December 2, 2005

to some of us Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ, so it's worth celebrating quite a bit more than it would be if it was just the season of empty consumerism.

Enough with the sly digs about what you suppose Christmas would mean if you were someone else. It's not as though people are actually celebrating "empty consumerism" instead of the birth of the Christ. They're celebrating the same values embodied in your Christmas without structuring it around a religious story. As I'm sure you know as a Christian, the birth of Christ didn't happen on December 25th anyway. Any celebration of Jesus at this time of year is based on pagan Solstice custom, albeit melded with a Biblical account of what was actually a springtime event (shepherds abiding in the fields, and all).

I know it's hard for some Christians to understand that it's possible to live a values-supported and meaningful life without attaching a Christian interpretation to all of our actions. But we do it. So please don't assume that a secular Christmas is somehow less personally important than a religious Christmas.

/rant. I'm not trying to pick a fight, just asking that we all be respectful of others' observances and not assert that any one choice is superior to or more meaningful than any other.
posted by Miko at 6:25 AM on December 2, 2005

Enough with the sly digs...

Miko - Chill. :-) I was explaining why his MMV since he said they celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday and I (clearly) do not. I didn't say you have to celebrate Christ's birthday or that He was born on Dec 25th or that non-Christians can't have their own value systems or their own ideas of a meaningful life and celebrate whatever they want.

But on the other hand...

You have a good point, at least in part, though: my wording could have been better. Though what I said implies it, I didn't mean to say that the only other way to celebrate Christmas is with empty consumerism. My bad.

So, barnsoir and Miko and anyone else who was offended, I'm sorry for sounding so snooty.

Oh, and Merry Christmas! Really, however you celebrate, have a good one.
posted by mumeishi at 11:12 AM on December 2, 2005

Thanks. Merry Christmas to you too (sincerely). I just made a resolution recently to speak up whenever there's an implication that non-Christians live without values - the values may be differently based but they are no less real or important. Thanks for understanding my point. This has been a good thread, and I should have phrased my response more nicely too.
posted by Miko at 12:37 PM on December 2, 2005

« Older How do I get rid of dead skin?   |   ITunes playlist question Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.