Some of you reading that title continued reading because you wanted to laugh with us as we chastised the early decorators. Others continued reading because they wanted to defend their love of decorating at whatever time they choose. I have to admit I’ve been in the former camp, but now I sit firmly in the early decorating camp because no one gave me a license to issue citations if a family wants to decorate differently than I do. From my perspective all of this starts with what I refer to as personal rules.
We all have personal rules. Many of us incorrectly assume others either know our rules, or we assume others have the exact same rules as us. Some personal rules are more universal like when we get on an elevator and turn around to face the door until we reach our desired floor. Other personal rules are not so universal and oftentimes cause distress when we learn about them. Did you know some people pour milk in their bowl before their cereal? If that made you cringe then you have a personal rule that you believe has been broken. In an unscientific, live poll held by 6 ABC News Philadelphia, about 5% of people who participated in the on-air poll, pour their milk in their bowl first and pour the cereal second. I won’t even start the debate on whether pineapple belongs on pizza (if you like it, then it does) or if hot dogs are a sandwich (which is more of a philosophical discussion than a debate).
Why do some people feel like they are the enforcers of holiday decorating etiquette? Many, I believe, are doing it for the laughs. At the very least I believe they are looking for a reaction. No one goes into a comedy club to hear middle of the road material because it’s not funny. Polarizing ideas are funny, or at least those are the ones that get a rise out of the audience. For these holiday rule makers, this might be their own personal and seasonal entertainment they routinely drag out of their comedy notebook once a year.
People will chime in and agree with these keepers of holiday decorating and the holiday police will treat it as confirmation bias; if people agree with them they have to be correct, right? Personally I don’t see a point in mandating or judging something that makes someone else happy, if it’s not hurting anyone else. No one decorating in July, August, September, October, or November has any bearing on how much happiness the season will bring me. By the same token, my holiday spirit will not be diminished by a person who doesn’t take down their decorations until February 1st.
We all hold different holiday traditions and I can tell you even some I hold with my own family now are different from those I had with my mom and dad. In the church community I grew up in, many believed you shouldn’t even bring down the decorations until January 6th or Epiphany, which is the twelfth day of Christmas in the liturgical calendar used by Catholics, Methodists, and Episcopals, among many others. When I was a kid we usually had the decorations down shortly after New Year’s Day. Sometimes, even earlier.
People celebrate the holidays differently and I think that is a beautiful thing. I hope this year we all talk about and trade holiday traditions, or at least learn about some traditions of people who celebrate differently than we do. Some people might associate the holiday season with loved ones they’ve lost and the happy times they had with that person. Others might not celebrate the holidays the way we think they should, or at all, because of past events in their lives we cannot see. Many decide to decorate early because it makes them feel good. If 2020 has taught us anything it’s that we all deserve to have a little extra joy. If putting up the tree and singing carols does that for you, go for it--and pass me the eggnog while you’re at it.
Today I understand my wife’s love for holiday decorations and music, as well as her decorating “rules,” better than ever. I've embraced putting up our tree on November 1st. I even have Christmas stations preprogrammed in my vehicle so I can easily switch from regular radio to Christmas radio when she is in the car with me. It takes a tiny amount of effort on my part to bring her joy for the short time the decorations will be up. I urge you all to do the same. There’s no reason to steal the joy someone else has found for themselves.
Andrew Brasfield is a Walker County native. He is an accomplished musician and works for Bevill State Community College.