How Santa stole Thanksgiving: Why many like to decorate for Christmas before Turkey Day
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 associated 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 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. in 2015 found 43% of Christmas celebrators start decorating before Thanksgiving week.
While that may seem ridiculously early to some, consider that psychologists suggest decking the halls earlier can actually make you happier.
Jenny Hester, interior designer and owner of Jenny Leigh Design in Birmingham, Alabama, is hardly astonished by the Christmas creep trend. She's observed ample evidence of this for years.
"Several things have contributed to early holiday decorating. Personally, I feel 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," she says. "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 people 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," says Tami Kelly, trend consultant for Treetopia.com. "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."
Farrha Hyman, interior designer with Colleyville, Texas-headquartered MOD Interiors, believes 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," says Hyman.
San Francisco-based events planner Edward Perotti concurs with the former point.
"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," he says. "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," Perotti says.
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," Hyman adds.
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," Perotti says. "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 Nov. 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," Perotti recommends. "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, pine cones, and fall or winter fruits like pomegranates, oranges and pears - as opposed to going straight into Santa style."