O Christmas Tree? Not Yet

There’s no denying it, the holiday season has arrived. Santa is holding court at the local mall. Holiday deals are arriving in my inbox, fast and furious. My neighbours are all putting up their lights. And my Instagram stream is chock-a-block with photos of people’s trees.

The treeI love Christmas. It’s by far my favourite holiday. I love Christmas music, and Christmas candy, and I even kind of like Christmas shopping. There’s just something about all the decorations and the bustle and the ritual of preparing for a celebration. If you strip away the layers of modern commercialism and the mayhem of the parking lot, there’s something timeless and deeply meaningful. People have been marking this time of year since long before there even was a Christmas, and they’ve been marking Christmas itself for countless generations. I love the sense of tradition and history involved in acts like preparing a holiday feast and setting up the Christmas tree.

In spite of my love for Christmas, however, I am a bit of a holiday holdout on a few fronts. The one that is currently causing the most stress in my home is my obstinate refusal to set up the tree any more than two weeks before Christmas. My children ask me every morning, now, if today is the day we can set up the tree. Every morning I repeat, once again, that it is not. Every afternoon they wheedle and whine and cajole. Please, please, please, Mama, please! I remain unmoved.

As a child, we waited to put up a tree because we had a real one, and we knew that if we put it up too early it would whither and die and drop needles everywhere before Christmas even happened. And so, from the time I was very young I had a family tradition of holding out on the tree until mid-December or later. Today I have a fake tree (to my great sadness – I miss the smell and the outing to choose the tree a whole lot), but I honour my childhood tradition. In part, because I see no reason to rush towards Christmas. But even more, because I know that anything loses its novelty after a while, even the tree. If I put it up too early the excitement around it will have vanished before the presents even arrive.

Looking back through my own archives, it seems I have this same internal debate every year. In 2009, I held out because I had a young toddler. In 2010, I objected to the idea that trees were going up while it was still November and I was still thinking about autumn. In 2011, I was equal parts lazy and nostalgic, not wanting to rush things. Every Christmas I see many trees popping up in front windows around my neighbourhood long before I’m ready to put mine up. Every year, my children object.

The scene on Christmas night
Christmas happened last year

There’s one thing I do know for sure, and it’s that Christmas will come. My kids will wake me up way too early on the morning of December 25th. I’ll drag my reluctant husband from his bed. We’ll come downstairs, to discover that magic has happened. The stockings, hung by the chimney with care, will be stuffed full. The plate of cookies left for Santa will be empty, but for a few crumbs. Presents will be under the tree, and lights will be glittering, as heirlooms passed from person to person within my family look down on us.

My children, with the impatience of their age, want to hurry the Christmas magic by putting up the tree as soon as possible. On the other hand with the nostalgia of my age, I want to follow my personal traditions, and let things come at what I deem their proper time. We are at an impasse. It is an impasse that will reach a natural resolution every year, as the tree inevitably goes up. Until the day that happens, though, the conflict will continue.

When do you put your tree up? And do your holiday preparations involve any negotiation with your children? I’d love to hear!

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  1. We used to wait, too, for many of the reasons you describe. But this year, we got our live tree the day after Thanksgiving. I know! It’s crazy. But actually, not really. For one thing, my six year old like obsessively loves decorations (for all holidays). He is so thrilled. For another, we can take our time adding decorations – we still have to make our salt dough ornaments for the year, and we want to try stringing popcorn. This will change the look as we add them, so it keeps it fresh and a piece of holiday excitement that keeps giving. Also, we’ll be out of town for several days before the actual day, so we wanted to give ourselves a bit of a head start (and the tree doesn’t have to last quite as long).

    But really? We live in Seattle (not too far from you!) and we all feel the loss of light, the dreariness and grayness this time of year. And the Christmas tree is like our own little lholiday light box, cheering us up, smelling wonderful, and distracting us from the darker days. 🙂
    Chessa’s last post … DPP Day 4: Experiential Advent CalendarMy Profile

    • That’s a good point about the grayness. And if your tree doesn’t have to last until Christmas and beyond, it does give you more flexibility.

      Maybe I’ll succumb and put mine up early next year. 😉

  2. I came up with the tradition of the tree going up on Christmas Eve. I found that too much last minute for my family so it usually goes up on the 20th. One of my children was born on the 19th so we wait until after her birthday so her birthday isn’t lumped together with Christmas holiday. I do leave the tree up through the 12 days of Christmas until January 6th however. Most of my neighbors have their trees down on New Years Day.

    • My dad’s birthday was the 19th, so I understand the need to keep things somewhat separate. I tend to leave my tree up long after Christmas as well, and that definitely adds to my desire to not jump the gun.

  3. We’re sort of slowly decking the halls this year. While we are technically moved in, our house is still under renovation, so there are the boxes everywhere. I’ve decided that we’ll put out one box of Christmas things at a time, and fill that box with toys & debris that can safely be ignored until after the new year, Right now it’s all about walking the line between making our first Christmas in our new home special, and preventing injuries from tripping over all the STUFF;-)
    Michelle’s last post … Knitting & ReadingMy Profile

  4. I’m a first weekend in December kind of girl. I’ve only got some decorations up in the windows and around the house so far. We didn’t have time to do the tree last weekend but the girls put up “their” tree (a 5ft Charlie Brown-esque little number but they LOVE it) They keep asking when we’ll do the big tree. I’m guessing this coming weekend I’ll finish it all off.

    I love Christmas but I refuse to do it prior to December. The house just feels so much more colorful and alive with all the decorations up.
    Carrie’s last post … Every Perfect Gift by Dorothy Love {Book Review}My Profile

  5. I have an early december birthday and the tradition in my family growing up was that the decorations and tree both waited until aftr my birthday. An exception was made for the advent calendar. And that feels right for my family now. The girls would LOVE to decorate the tree right now, but I do feel like it’s more special if it’s only for a shorter time. Plus, we have a live tree that is potted and which comes in from the porch once a year and then goes back out on New Year’s Day. I like to think it’s less of a shock for the tree to be inside for 2 weeks instead of a month.
    Michelle @ The Parent Vortex’s last post … I wrote a book!My Profile

    • We’re doing the advent calendar right now, as well. And we updated our seasonal shelf with some Christmas-y type things. But that tree is going to have to wait!

      Incidentally, I have a friend who gets a live tree from a service every year. Apparently they deliver it to you, and then take it away after. I’m kind of intrigued by the idea, because it would solve a lot of the issues I anticipate with having my own tree (where to keep it the rest of the year, for instance), but apparently it’s super expensive.

  6. Wonderful! We’ve been treeless in the house for three years now due to baby/toddler – well we did have on the front deck for a while…. so this year, we got ours on the 2nd, and decked the house out as well. We Hope it lasts! We do real tree. I like the ritual and the tree lot is a few blocks from our house. That said, this will also be our first stocking year … not that we have one for Theo yet…

    Very happy to have it all up early. The house feels festive and cosy.
    harriet Fancott’s last post … GratitudeMy Profile

  7. Our tree is not yet up. Like yourself, when I was a kid our real tree went up the weekend on or after the 1th of December. My fake tree as an adult can go up at any time, but I like the delay and have it up for a short amount of time.
    My main reason for delaying now is that Hannah’s birthday is November 30th. I always want to wait until after her birthday party. I just don’t like the idea of mixing a birthday with Christmas. It’s one of the reasons I never wanted a baby around the holidays. My lights outside just 1/2 went up yesterday. Hopefully, the other 1/2 will make it up today. Who knows, by the weekend my outside may be done 🙂
    Heather’s last post … Happy Birthday HannahMy Profile

    • I’m hoping to put up our lights outside this weekend – but I’d rather not do it in the rain. This is the Vancouver dilemma, when it rains every weekend in November and December.

  8. We buy a tree early December and never have any trouble with it dropping needles as long as we keep it watered. I love the smell of a real tree! And we enjoy making and putting up more decorations as the month goes on. I love the Christmas season and, although I’m offended by Christmas stuff in stores before Halloween, I am happy to get out my decorations as soon as Thanksgiving is over.
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    • To be fair, I’ve always believed that the max you could leave a real tree up for was three weeks, because that’s what my mom told me. I’ve never actually put it to the test. If I ever get a real tree again (I prefer them by far), I may try pushing the boundaries.

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