November 28, 2023 at 8:46 a.m.
Guest Columnist

Decorating For Christmas No Simple Matter

When should a Christmas tree go up?

TAMMY WILSON | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

When should a Christmas tree go up?

I follow my mother’s rule: no Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, that red-haired stepchild of a holiday, is squeezed ever tighter between jack-o-lanterns and Santa Claus. But if you agree with Mom, holidays need their own time.  Christmas shouldn’t be rushed at the expense of Thanksgiving, the pilgrim tribute that’s the next thing to an American high holy day. Once Macy’s parade has ended and the turkey dressing and cranberries have had their due, it’s perfectly acceptable to put up Christmas decorations.

Apparently, a lot of people agree. Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. Hwy 321 sees vehicle after vehicle carrying just-cut Fraser firs from the mountains. Most of us are familiar with the site of bundled trees on the roofs of SUVs, pickups and sedans.

The less-adventuresome among us opt for a tree-lot tree while the truly laid-back, settle for their old tried-and-true artificial number from years past.

2023 saw what appeared to be more than a few homes with early holiday décor. Lit Christmas trees and light displays were up by mid-November, inflatable Santas and reindeer encroaching on front lawns before Thanksgiving.

Are the seasons shifting?

Yes, thanks to the retail calendar.

We can thank Abraham Lincoln for the date of Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday of November as a peaceful interlude during the Civil War. Uncle Abe had no idea that he was in fact, determining the official American Christmas shopping season. This year, Thanksgiving was on Nov. 23, one day later than the earliest possible date of Nov. 22. Some years, Thanksgiving has come as late as Nov. 28, shortening the retail season by a week, much to the chagrin of retailers,

I agree with President Calvin Coolidge who so famously quipped, “the chief business of America is business.”

When it comes to the holidays, the retail calendar rules as it has for generations. And, if you’re an early bird about putting up your Christmas decorations, I’ll bet you’re more likely to take them down right after Christmas. I once knew people who took down the Christmas tree hours after the presents were opened, then went to bed early to catch after-Christmas sales before the crack of dawn.

Meanwhile, folks complain about Christmas merchandise popping up in stores in September, nudging Halloween to get out of the way.

There was a time, say before 1960, when the signal for Christmas was colored lights strung across Main Street proclaiming “Merry Christmas.” City department stores went all-out with store window displays with moving elves, circling model trains and fake snow. Santas took up residence in candy-land huts in city parks or in department store lobbies.

I’m still partial to multicolored lights. I may use white minis and candles outside, but the real me has been a green tree with multicolored lights…large bulbs that weigh down the branches in glowing red, green, orange and blue.

This year I broke my own rule by dragging an old Christmas tree from the attic—a pink number I snapped up at Big Lots 14 years ago. At that particular point, I was put off at the challenge of sweeping evergreen needles and keeping a “live” tree watered for three weeks without staining the floor.

I remember hemming and hawing about which tree to buy:  the lavender one, the white one or the pink. I guess I was in a funky mood in 2009.

The pink tree I call “Elvis” hasn’t seen the light of day in at least 10 years, and, no surprise, the white pre-lit lights had quit working, which a common refrain of anyone who’s owned a pre-lit tree.  Back to Amazon I went in search of strings of pink wire to blend with flamingo-colored foliage.

One sure sign that it’s Christmas is the dreaded Claxton fruitcake. These door stops were available at Food Lion before Nov. 15.  You know the little decorated Norfolk pines and boxed amaryllis bulbs can’t be far behind.

I’ll admit I’ve been dipping into the Black Friday deals online for the past three weeks. A The best part—other than the discounts—are skipping the crowded parking lots, long checkout lines and Christmas Muzak. If I never hear “Santa Baby” or “Wonderful Christmas Time” again, it won’t be too soon. 

My dogs alert me to the sound of Fed Ex backing up the drive. Another package delivery. My phone beeps with a photo of the package on my front porch, reminding me that yes, I really did order all that stuff.

Christmas commercialism doesn’t dominate other countries so much. It’s a bit more relaxed without Thanksgiving to work around. The season stretches from early November to Epiphany—Jan. 6, commemorating the wise men’s visit to Baby Jesus—the “reason for the season.”

A week ago, I was on the hunt for a small crèche (Nativity).  Their shelves were stocked with scores of Santas, stockings, snowmen, candy canes, bears, reindeer figures and elves. I asked clerks at two stores. One gave me a shrug. The second one wasn’t sure what I was talking about.

Then I remembered hearing renditions of hymns on the PA in Hobby Lobby. Sure enough, they had Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus. Just when I was about to claim that the “reason for the season” was no longer a thing, I was gratefully proven wrong.

---Tammy Wilson lives near Newton. Contact her at [email protected]

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