It’s a debate that crops up every November: when really is the best time to put up the Christmas decorations? We asked 10 women the meaning and traditions behind the date they start decking their halls.
Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also throw up some extremely contentious debates: are brussels sprouts Christmas carnage or necessity? How much is too much tinsel? Round robin Christmas cards – sweet or sinister?
If you’re anything like Britney Spears or Joan Collins, both of whom have already opulently dressed their trees in November, the occasion can’t come soon enough. For others, it’s an event to be held off and savoured for the latter half of December.
There are many arguments for both sides of the debate. Psychologists suggest that Christmas decorations’ glowing lights and whimsical colours cause our dopamine, or happy hormone, to spike. So kick-starting Christmas in November can give us a boost as the days get darker.
For others, the ever earlier phenomenon of ‘Christmas Creep’ – aka when retailers start introducing Christmas-themed merchandise into shops before the traditional start of the holiday shopping season – can make us want to hold off decking out our homes in revolt.
Traditionally, advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, so technically that’s when you should put up your tree. This means you’d be putting your decorations on 28 November this year.
However, a survey of 2,000 adults for Next Home on the UK’s Christmas habits found 11% of people put their decorations up in the first week of November, with the majority, 29%, opting for a day between 29 November and 5 December. Only 8% leave it to the final days before Christmas Day.
But, whatever time we decide to drag the decorations out of the loft, it’s more often than not rooted in family tradition or just sheer convenience. So, we asked 10 women the real reasoning behind the time they choose to deck the halls.
For some, spreading out the Christmas spirit for as long as possible is key.
“I’m a big proponent of extending any and all festivities long beyond their designated date. Birthdays are less singular days and more week-long affairs, and I’m known to raise a glass to general milestones for months after they’ve occurred. Naturally, Christmas is no exception, which means that the halls are decked a few days after the clocks go back (yes, really). There’s mistletoe, there’s wine, and hopefully for all, an extended good time.” Naomi, London
“My family covers our house with lights every year and turn them on right at the beginning of November. It’s become a bit of a tradition on our street and all the neighbours will expect them. Every time I come home it makes me feel cosy and Christmassy. I think it’s nice to have that feeling for as long as possible in the winter.” Dawn, London
“My flatmates and I used to wait until December to put up our Christmas decorations, but last year when there wasn’t a lot to do over lockdown and it felt quite bleak we put them up in November instead. We’ve done the same this year. It makes our rental house feel more like home.” Laura, Manchester
“I personally like to have them up on or by 1 December just to make the most of everything (plus we keep them up ‘late’ until 7 January as my partner’s family are Coptic and that’s when they celebrate Christmas Day.)” Amy, London
In other households, mid-December is the optimum time for decorations.
“Growing up, we weren’t allowed to put them up until after my brother’s birthday on 9 December so it wasn’t upstaged by Jesus’s. With a family of my own, we start whenever the first advent Sunday is as the box of related paraphernalia comes down from the loft for that. But I still don’t have the heart to put the tree up until 10 December at the earliest.” Holly, London
“I grew up in Germany and my parents sometimes wouldn’t even buy a Christmas tree until Christmas Eve and I found this really late. When I moved out at 19, I established my own tradition. Since living in the UK, I decorate on the first advent weekend. This way I get a whole month of Christmas atmosphere and I love putting arriving presents under the tree. It keeps the magic spark alive for longer. The cut-off point to take decorations down in central Europe is 6 January (the day of the three kings). Anything longer wouldn’t feel authentic.” Carolin, London
“I always put the decorations up after 8 December purely for selfish reasons as Christmas can only start after my birthday!” Leah, London
Others are willing to hold out until there are only a few windows left on the advent calendar.
“Christmas decorations are not to be put up before the first full weekend of December. Any earlier, then you’ll end up exhausting the magic of Christmas, spending half your life hoovering up Christmas tree pine needles and run the risk of the bulbs in your pretty fairy lights dying. And there’s really nothing more annoying and anti-Christmas spirit than one tiny light bulb that doesn’t work. Once you see it you can’t un-see it. And why would you want that sort of stress over Christmas?” Jazmin, London
“Putting up Christmas decorations and the tree is something that should be done as late as possible. Anything before 15 December and you run the risk of festive fatigue by the time the big day rolls around. My ideal date would be 18 December or whatever weekend falls before Christmas. I make it an event with hot chocolate, carols, Baileys and friends and family. The only way.” Morgan, London
“It was always a tradition in my family to go out on Christmas Eve to get a tree and then decorate it in the evening together while listening to Christmas songs. Admittedly, this is very late and sometimes I’d be jealous walking into friends’ houses that were kitted out with decorations all through December. But it became a really special event and I’ll always treasure memories of those Christmas Eve evenings.” Alex, Leeds