A Christmas Tree Timeline

When to put up a Christmas tree, add lights and remove the tree.

By Erik J. Martin

In our hectic modern world, it’s easy to get overscheduled and cram events and activities in an already loaded calendar. And that’s particularly true around the holidays, a time when most of us should be giving pause, enjoying more rest and relaxation, and soaking in the spirit of the season.

Still, it’s a good idea to think about the right timing when it comes to your Christmas tree and its adornment, the pros agree. That’s because, without the proper planning and pacing, your tree-trimming tradition may feel rushed, or that tree may overstay its welcome and stand out like an eyesore long past New Year’s.

Thanksgiving through Christmas is a very busy time of year for most people, so it’s always best to plan your decorating schedule in advance. This will help you decide how you would like to decorate your home and will serve as a reminder to purchase any items you may need, such as tree ornaments, hooks, or an extension cord, to finish your project.

Especially for families with children, working out a schedule for holiday decorating can help at a time of year that tends to feel disorganized and frenetic, creating more structure and less stress.

If you have an artificial tree, consider putting it up the day or week after Thanksgiving so that it can be enjoyed for several weeks throughout the entire holiday season.

You want to ensure you have enough time to decorate, pose for holiday photos, and provide a natural place to store all those wrapped presents under the tree.

If you plan to purchase a real tree, you might want to postpone matters slightly.

Rule of thumb is to up your live Christmas tree no earlier than December 10 and no later than December 23. Real trees need proper watering and maintenance. Otherwise, they will die, possibly harm your home’s air quality, and act as a fire hazard.

There is no pressure to trim/decorate your tree the same day you erect it.

Lighting it and adding ornaments can be spread over several days or a weekend if it works better for your schedule. Some purists enjoy simply displaying a tree as is or decorating with a few string lights.

There’s nothing tacky about putting up a tree and then decorating it later. In fact, many families have separate traditions of putting up the tree versus decorating it.

Emily Burton, an internationally known event planner in Saint Simons Island, Georgia, says there is no right or wrong answer on a deadline date by which you should set up and trim a tree.

“It should be based on your traveling plans and if you intend to host a holiday party at your home, as well as what enables you to feel less stress,” says Burton.

There’s also no hard and fast rule regarding the tree takedown date, although special considerations need to be made regarding a live tree.

A real tree should be taken down soon after Christmas or New Year’s to avoid the risk of the branch needles drying out and posing a fire hazard.

An artificial tree can remain in place for longer if you desire, but it may start to lose its aesthetic impact and charm if you procrastinate too long. Visitors may raise an eyebrow, too.

“I would say that if it’s February and your tree is still up, it starts to get excessive,” says Burton.