How Santa Stole Thanksgiving

Why many like to decorate for Christmas before Turkey Day

By Erik J. Martin

November is still a month firmly entrenched in autumn, a season dominated by hues like orange, brown, black and yellow. But look closely outdoors around your block and you’ll likely see snatches of green, red and white, too – colors connoted with December. It’s a phenomenon known as “Christmas creep,” a holiday decorating drift that seems to be taking root earlier every year: even prior to Thanksgiving.

In fact, research shows that many folks prefer to put up their Christmas tree and festoon their homes with holiday decor ahead of Turkey Day; a survey conducted by Christmas Lights, Etc. found that 43 percent of Christmas consumers start decorating before Thanksgiving week.

While that may seem ridiculously early to some, consider that psychologists suggest that decking the halls earlier can actually make you happier.

Several things have contributed to early holiday decorating. Halloween is the start of the holiday season, with Thanksgiving and Christmas all falling in line. It’s simply a festive time of year, full of opportunities for fun and fellowship and decorating. As we move through these three holidays, excitement builds. Stores begin promoting and displaying seasonal items and decor.

This advanced promotional push by retailers encourages consumers to purchase holiday decor early and often; also, it sends the message that there are no hard and fast rules about proper decorative timing.

Not only are people decorating earlier than ever, but we see a trend toward keeping the Christmas tree up longer and even year-round. For example, Halloween trees in black, orange and purple are increasing in popularity; many will strip down the tree after Halloween but leave it up to decorate for Christmas a few weeks later.

Many people showcase their holiday decor before Thanksgiving for two main reasons.

One is that they feel it is so time-consuming to decorate and they want to enjoy it as long as possible, so why not start earlier. Two, they are usually the ones to host Thanksgiving dinner for their family, so they like to show off their holiday decorations.

Getting them up before the season is in full swing means you can devote the time you want without it getting in the way of other holiday activities. For many people, this is their favorite time of year, so they want to enjoy it for more than merely the three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And by Thanksgiving, autumn decor has probably been up for two months or more – it’s time for something new.

The drawbacks of setting a Yuletide scene on or before Thanksgiving is that it detracts from the latter, possibly not only from a decoration perspective, but also the holiday’s overall meaning and intent. After all, the first Thanksgiving was about coming together and enjoying a meal – not Santa and what’s hiding under the tree.

Earlier-than-usual holiday embellishing can also elicit frowns and sneers from visitors and blockmates.

“There is the possibility of upsetting your neighbors if you turn on your exterior decorations too early.

Still, if it brings you joy, don’t be afraid to adopt a Christmas carpe diem doctrine.

Visitors may think you’re rushing the season or you’re impatient or you just want to get it over with. But if it makes you happy, who cares? Savor the season at your own pace.

Don’t feel like you have to trim the tree, install the icicle lights and stage the nativity scene before company arrives on November 22, however. Instead, aim to introduce holiday decor in stages.

Focus on pieces that can transition from fall and Thanksgiving decor as your base, so that you’re not completely changing over from Thanksgiving to Christmas in one day. For instance, silver candelabras and white poinsettias, as opposed to red, can work for both holidays. Also, spotlight items that span the seasons – bay leaf garlands, pinecones, and fall or winter fruits like pomegranates, oranges and pears – as opposed to going straight into Santa style.