Here we are again…less than three weeks from Black Friday and the holiday shopping season has already officially started. However, when is the right time to put up those holiday decorations and what happens when your traditions differ from your significant other’s traditions?
Growing up as a child, my mom was a big decorator of the house and my dad strung lights outside like there was no tomorrow. I would say his skills were a cross between the Griswolds/Christmas Vacation and the Parkers/A Christmas Story. Our family would spend a whole Saturday stringing lights from our two-story home and around every tree and bush on our property. This usually was the first Saturday after Halloween, one because we lived in Buffalo, NY and if you waited too long you would get snowed out and two, my mom believed we had to get past Halloween before we could put up holiday decorations.
When I married my wife, things changed. The standard rule now is no decorations up before December 1st and there are no exceptions. You may think this is due to my wife wanting to waiting until Thanksgiving is over and then go into the next holiday. Not even close. Her birthday is December 1st and nothing is going to supersede her birthday. During her childhood, her birthday was often lost in the bustle of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, holiday parties and vacations. She says that there is a natural progression of holidays that we must adhere to: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Birthday, then Christmas.
This “new tradition” has been a struggle at times now that I have children who want me to go outside and put up lights before the 1st since all their friends families have put up theirs. Over time my children have grown accustomed to heading outside and stringing lights up after their mother’s birthday, which is fun. But, for me, putting them up for only 4 weeks is a bit of a pain.
This year my youngest son asked me, “Dad, can we wait to put up the lights until December 7th?” I did not have to ask the question, but did anyway, “Why?” His response was classic, “well mom does not want to have decorations up for her birthday and I do not want them for mine.” His birthday is December 6th. I then asked, “Well, should be wait until your twin brother and sister have their birthday?” (December 19th). His response: “No way dad, that would be silly, you would never put the lights on the outside of the house for only a week!” He knows me pretty well.
So, now I have reconciled my past experience with what is my present and what will surely by my future. However, I believe that each family should decorate around a timetable that works for them. It is a time for family so do it when you can dedicate the time to your family…anytime after Halloween, that is. It’s hard watching department stores putting up their Holiday stuff right after Labor Day. I do think, though, everything should be taken down right after the 1st of January. As for traditions, you need to develop your own as a family. We drive neighborhoods every Christmas Eve and have hot chocolate along the way. Then on Christmas morning, once we open gifts, we are off to the movie theater for a show. It is a tradition we started a few years ago when we moved away from family and had (quite honestly) nothing better to do in a new house and neighborhood. When we first started, hardly anyone would be at the theater. Now it seems like everyone is copying us and the theaters are packed. We may have to come up with new, less-crowded tradition!