When to Decorate for Christmas


Few things are as fiercely debated during the months of October to December as when to decorate a house for the holidays (okay, maybe if it’s an election year, there are some bigger debates happening, but still). People are passionate about the appropriate time to put up decor, and things historically get heated between the early birds and the I’d-rather-get-through-Thanksgiving crew.

Perhaps the general anger or grumpiness over early decorating is directly tied to the retail calendar, and how stores set out the Christmas displays earlier and earlier each year. Does the phrase “Christmas in July” sound familiar? I have vague memories of adults grumbling about garlands and ribbons being on display too soon at the local mall, but my mother (who does all the decorating) never seemed to mind much. After years of working in media myself, I’m quite used to the extremely early prep. Holiday issues of print magazines are often wrapped and sent to the printers by late August, so it’s no shock to me that retailers come not too long after.

It depends too, on how long you can get a real tree to last. If you’re a faux tree family, the decorating can begin as soon as your jolly little hearts desire, but if you can’t resist the smell and excitement of a real tree, you have to bide your time a little more. Real Christmas trees last about four to five weeks on average, so right after Thanksgiving is pretty much the perfect time to go hunting for one.

Personally, I decorate the weekend after Thanksgiving. It’s also the reason why I book it out of my parents’ house that weekend, because 1. I don’t want to be involved in the attic retrieval process, and 2. I can’t wait to tear open all of my decorations in my own apartment. Each year, my mom would enlist my brother and I to catch boxes that came hurtling down from the attic, both of us stumbling over each other and hiding in our rooms, my mom yelling down from the ceiling to ask where we went. It’s an event I avoid now that I’m an adult. Can you blame me?

Once I’m settled back in my own home (with Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge ready to heat up for lunch), I delight in unwrapping all the decorations I somehow forgot I owned. For me, this is when the Christmas season really starts. I like to let Thanksgiving have its own time in the sun, so I leave the pre-Halloween pumpkins out until the big feast, swapping them out with bottle brush trees and tiny Santas afterward.

I asked around the Food52 team to get some hot takes on the topic, and unsurprisingly, came back with some mixed responses.

“Depends—if you’re having company for Thanksgiving, then the weekend before. I’ve also been known to put Elf on mid-summer.”—Dina Losito, B2B Business Associate

“I have a mini tabletop tree up already…” Aja Atkay, Senior Merchandiser, Curation & Collaborations

“I agree with Dina—if I’m having guests over for Thanksgiving, then I like to put some decorations up before the big dinner. It just feels more festive and selfishly, I like having Christmas decorations up for as long as I can. I have to wait until the week after Thanksgiving for the real tree, but the lights and garlands will do!”Jada Wong, Market Editor

“I refuse to acknowledge Christmas until after my birthday, which is usually the week right after Thanksgiving and then it’s all the Christmas things for 20 days straight!” —Janine Sanabria, Senior Product Development Associate

“I would leave my Christmas decorations up year round if it was socially acceptable. But I consider Thanksgiving to be the official start of the holiday season, so I think that weekend is the perfect time to swap my leaf garland for faux pine garland and put ceramic trees in place of pumpkins and gourds.” Kelly Vaughan, Staff Writer

“I’m a weekend-after-Thanksgiving person—wait too long, and the live wreath and garland selection won’t be great. As for decorating earlier than that: Who am I to tell people not to do something festive and cheerful?” Maurine Hainsworth, Senior Copywriter

“My husband says I’m a grinch, but I get grumpy if we put up any decorations before December 10. I can be negotiated down to December 5, but no earlier.” —Kaleigh Embree, Product Development Coordinator

“Since Hanukkah is eight days, I generally have decorations up in time for the first candle lighting.” Sarah Yaffa, Senior Data Analyst II

“I would be happy decorating on December 24 and taking it all down on December 26, but my kid disagrees.” —Rob Strype, Video Editing Lead

“​​I’m not a huge Christmas decoration person and after years in food service and retail, I’d love NO CHRISTMAS ANYTHING until December 1.” —Emily Hanhan, Research Associate, Genius

So, after this hard-hitting team research, I’m comfortable making the call that anytime post-Thanksgiving is the general consensus for holiday decor season. That said, I’m with Maurine. If putting up decorating early makes you happy, then go right ahead and deck the halls whenever you see fit. Just send us photos of the display, will you?

When do you and your family put up holiday decor? Do you have passionate opinions on the topic? Weigh in below!

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