We’re Settling It: When's the Right Time to Decorate for the Holidays?

We've got some passionate opinions on the topic.

November  8, 2021
Photo by MJ Kroeger

Few things are as fiercely debated during the months of October to December as when to decorate a house for the holidays (okay, maybe if it’s an election year, there are some bigger debates happening, but still). People are passionate about the appropriate time to put up decor, and things historically get heated between the early birds and the I’d-rather-get-through-Thanksgiving crew.

Perhaps the general anger or grumpiness over early decorating is directly tied to the retail calendar, and how stores set out the Christmas displays earlier and earlier each year. Does the phrase "Christmas in July" sound familiar? I have vague memories of adults grumbling about garlands and ribbons being on display too soon at the local mall, but my mother (who does all the decorating) never seemed to mind much. After years of working in media myself, I’m quite used to the extremely early prep. Holiday issues of print magazines are often wrapped and sent to the printers by late August, so it’s no shock to me that retailers come not too long after.

It depends too, on how long you can get a real tree to last. If you’re a faux tree family, the decorating can begin as soon as your jolly little hearts desire, but if you can’t resist the smell and excitement of a real tree, you have to bide your time a little more. Real Christmas trees last about four to five weeks on average, so right after Thanksgiving is pretty much the perfect time to go hunting for one.

Personally, I decorate the weekend after Thanksgiving. It’s also the reason why I book it out of my parents’ house that weekend, because 1. I don’t want to be involved in the attic retrieval process, and 2. I can’t wait to tear open all of my decorations in my own apartment. Each year, my mom would enlist my brother and I to catch boxes that came hurtling down from the attic, both of us stumbling over each other and hiding in our rooms, my mom yelling down from the ceiling to ask where we went. It’s an event I avoid now that I’m an adult. Can you blame me?

Once I’m settled back in my own home (with Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge ready to heat up for lunch), I delight in unwrapping all the decorations I somehow forgot I owned. For me, this is when the Christmas season really starts. I like to let Thanksgiving have its own time in the sun, so I leave the pre-Halloween pumpkins out until the big feast, swapping them out with bottle brush trees and tiny Santas afterward.

I asked around the Food52 team to get some hot takes on the topic, and unsurprisingly, came back with some mixed responses.

The Early-to-Deck-the-Halls Crew

“Depends—if you’re having company for Thanksgiving, then the weekend before. I’ve also been known to put Elf on mid-summer.”—Dina Losito, B2B Business Associate

“I have a mini tabletop tree up already…” Aja Aktay, Senior Merchandiser, Curation & Collaborations

"I agree with Dina—if I'm having guests over for Thanksgiving, then I like to put some decorations up before the big dinner. It just feels more festive and selfishly, I like having Christmas decorations up for as long as I can. I have to wait until the week after Thanksgiving for the real tree, but the lights and garlands will do!"Jada Wong, Market Editor

The I’d-Rather-Get-Through-Thanksgiving Folks

“I refuse to acknowledge Christmas until after my birthday, which is usually the week right after Thanksgiving and then it's all the Christmas things for 20 days straight!” —Janine Sanabria, Senior Product Development Associate

“I would leave my Christmas decorations up year round if it was socially acceptable. But I consider Thanksgiving to be the official start of the holiday season, so I think that weekend is the perfect time to swap my leaf garland for faux pine garland and put ceramic trees in place of pumpkins and gourds.” Kelly Vaughan, Staff Writer

“I'm a weekend-after-Thanksgiving person—wait too long, and the live wreath and garland selection won't be great. As for decorating earlier than that: Who am I to tell people not to do something festive and cheerful?” Maurine Hainsworth, Senior Copywriter

The As-Late-As-Possible People

“My husband says I'm a grinch, but I get grumpy if we put up any decorations before December 10. I can be negotiated down to December 5, but no earlier.” —Kaleigh Embree, Product Development Coordinator

“Since Hanukkah is eight days, I generally have decorations up in time for the first candle lighting.” Sarah Yaffa, Senior Data Analyst II

“I would be happy decorating on December 24 and taking it all down on December 26, but my kid disagrees.” —Rob Strype, Video Editing Lead

“​​I'm not a huge Christmas decoration person and after years in food service and retail, I'd love NO CHRISTMAS ANYTHING until December 1.” —Emily Hanhan, Research Associate, Genius

So, after this hard-hitting team research, I’m comfortable making the call that anytime post-Thanksgiving is the general consensus for holiday decor season. That said, I’m with Maurine. If putting up decorating early makes you happy, then go right ahead and deck the halls whenever you see fit. Just send us photos of the display, will you?

When do you and your family put up holiday decor? Do you have passionate opinions on the topic? Weigh in below!

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When I'm not writing & editing for Home52, I'm likely to be found DIY-ing a new piece of furniture (or restoring an old one), hanging things on the wall in my apartment, or watching hours of vintage RHONY.


jpriddy October 24, 2022
My husband and I are the "other" grandparents for our three grandchildren—the grandparents who now live further away and are not the mothers' parents. After negotiation, we get them with us for Twelfth Night, and so the key is not when we put decorations up, but that the holiday must last till after that early January date. We vote for no earlier than December to put up decorations. [On the other hand, a white, bare-branches tree decorated with nacre shells we've found stays up all year.]
ChristmasTrucker48 November 20, 2021
NOW!!! Lol I put mine up beginning of the week. They way I see it is the time it takes getting them down from the loft, putting them all up is time consuming. Before you know it your taking them down again. So for me second week of November is the perfect time. Then I take them down day after New Year’s Day.
JenGirlCooks November 11, 2021
This is a sensitive subject indeed! I recall as a kid my grandmother getting out her fake tree & ornaments after dinner one Thanksgiving. Plus sometimes she'd take it all down the day after Christmas. I wasn't having it & think I cried or had a fit because Fall & Winter are precious & IMHO each deserve their time.
Personally, I love Fall & Thanksgiving equally as much as Winter Holidays so each get their own full month of decorating. Fall decor can begin in October with Halloween & then once December 1st or the first full weekend arrives I will switch to Winter holiday decorating. That stays up mostly until weekend after New Years. (dry tree etc may go away early as I often would travel & adjust decor accordingly)
CherylG November 9, 2021
Ever since I can remember, we decorated Thanksgiving night and took them down after New Year's Day. Last year I struggled with decorating at all since I lost my Dad right before Halloween and my mom 13 months prior.
DBERNE November 16, 2021
I’m so sorry for your losses so close together. My wife passed away last year. She always grumbled about decorating and even though (or maybe because?) I did not grow up in a Christian family, I’ve always loved the decked out look. So I would put the trees and decorations the weekend after thanksgiving, and take it down the weekend after New Years at the latest. Last year, right after thanksgiving,she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and my motivation was low, until she told me in the hospital that she actually loved the decorations, just hated the process of decorating. So when got home from seeing her, I put up all the decorations so her last few weeks at home were still surrounded by trees, lights, and general Christmas stuff. This will be the first holiday without her, but I will try to still honor her memory of past years by putting some of things out after Thanksgiving.
CherylG November 16, 2021
Cancer is a horrible thing... Both of my parents and my older brother passed from it as well as several uncles. I was Mom's and Dad's caregiver as well as my Uncle's (alongside my Mother who was a retired nurse). My sister was going to sell Dad's Christmas tree, but I couldn't bear it Togo to someone outside of the family, so I claimed it. This will be the first year I've put it up. There will be tears, but my folks were like your wife... They decorated in a huge way, so this is my way of honoring them. Bless you during this season.
hunterl2 November 9, 2021
We are a "decorate after Thanksgiving" family however I think we all would be just fine decorating before. We love all things holiday but somehow the unspoken rules of decorating after keeps us from going all out before. We do however take in lots of Christmas music prior to and I spend quite a bit of November crafting for Christmas. It builds the anticipation I guess!
Terry M. November 8, 2021
We no longer have a big family/friends Christmas at our home, but we do host Thanksgiving for the extended family, so we decorate for that. When we were younger, we had a big gathering of friends during the Christmas season (for 20+ years!) but when that ended, decorating after Thanksgiving meant it was only for we moved it forward.
Kelly M. November 8, 2021
We decorated yesterday (November 7). It's been a rough 2 years between the general state of the world (COVID) and deaths in our family, so my husband and I agreed we needed a bit of extra cheer. We don't host either Thanksgiving or Christmas, so it's just for us. Plus, Christmas is just the best time of year and we always used to try to cram in as much as possible into December (drinking Christmas drinks, watching Christmas movies, baking gingerbread, listening to Christmas music, etc.). Now, we just give ourselves some grace and do all of the Christmas-related things for most of November and all of December.