When you have kids, there’s a lot of pressure to put the tree up as early as possible. I didn’t used to have very strong opinions on when to put the deccies up, apart from banning anything before December. That’s just wrong, although it appears that once we’ve had Thanksgiving over here (complete with green bean casserole), it’s open season. However, it also constitutes cruel and unusual punishment to make the kids wait until Christmas Eve, and, as the person responsible for wrapping and putting presents out (and Santa’s reindeer food) I couldn’t even contemplate adding extra items to that to-do list.
We put our tree up yesterday, and now I have a firm opinion on when it should be done. I swear it was an exhausting, frustrating all day event. We have an enormous artificial tree which is erected in millions of numbered parts. The Ball & Chain corralled the teens into helping while I hid and wrote Xmas cards, till all the shouting and general mayhem had finished. The decision, after much deliberation, was to put the lights on next otherwise the ornaments would probably get knocked off. Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth as we plugged in string after string of lights to find the middle bulbs all out, argued colo(u)red over white lights (as Lord knows, we have plenty of both) and generally made no progress.
The Ball & Chain (with at least one child in tow) made no less than three trips to Home Depot (B&Q equivalent) until I finally told him to stop messing around and just bloody buy new ones. They cost about $5 for a hundred miles fer cryin’ out loud.
He then needed a long nap poor thing, and I attempted to dress the tree with a 6 year old who was bent on testing the laws of physics by piling everything on one side, and who then wandered off “for a rest”. The Queenager was a big help – as far as dressing the tree went, but suddenly remembered homework when faced with the five big plastic empty containers still to be put back in the garage, glittery stuff sticking to everything, and a big mess to tidy up. Two hours later the place looked somewhat presentable – and I was exhausted. So, the answer. The best time to put the tree up is when the person who’s going to be clearing up the mess feels the most energetic.
As Toni so deftly illustrated, putting the tree up can be a chore (a woman I used to live with who is now known only as ‘she-who-must-not-be-named’ had a tree ritual that took—no exaggeration—two full days) and that can make the faint of heart, or the curmudgeonly among us, put it off until the last minute.
But as an American, the proper time to start decorating (not necessarily put up the tree) is as soon as Thanksgiving is over. Sometimes that very afternoon.
I expect this tradition varies from clan to clan, but everyone I know subscribed to it. Thanksgiving may not keep the stores from decorating in the last week of August, but it is as good as a starter’s pistol for the average American family.
That’s why Brit’s aren’t really sure about when to start. Decorations begin to appear in November and sort of expand until Christmas week when everyone who is going to put up something has done so, then it levels out and things begin to disappear in stages after New Year.
As to when the proper time to take down the decorations is, we can look into that in January.
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