Some of us will have started to deck the halls and trim the tree in November, but for anyone who waits until December to start putting up the Christmas decorations, the debate is this: is it best to do it early in the month, or wait until later so that your greenery doesn't start to wilt and you don't get bored of the festivities before they even start?
For psychotherapist and interior designer, Helen Sanderson MSc, author of Secret Life of Clutter, decorating earlier could be better for your overall happiness. 'If decorating the house early will give you more time and space to focus on other things, then go ahead and do it. You will get to enjoy the decorations for longer, and create more time for the other things you have to do later. It could also help you avoid or reduce some of that last-minute stress.'
Benefits of putting up Christmas decorations early
There are emotional benefits to putting up the decorations early, too. 'The visual associations of festive decorations can trigger positive emotions and memories, contributing to a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing. So, decorating early may mean you get to experience more of those positive emotions,' explains Helen Sandserson.
'The act of decorating can be a meaningful and enjoyable activity, bringing a sense of accomplishment and connection with family and traditions. Do it early and you can relax a little, knowing you have one thing ticked off, and get early into the festive spirit of giving and receiving, reflecting and sharing.'
If you're planning to put up your Christmas decorations ASAP, here's what to keep in mind…
1. Make a start with your Christmas tree
According to the experts at Christmas Tree World, either the 1st December or the first day of Advent (this year, that's 3rd December), are the best days to trim the tree.
'Advent typically starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, making it the ideal time to begin your festivities! Another popular choice for when to deck the halls is the slightly earlier date of December 1st. Many households like to set up their tree and other festive decorations on the first day of the month to mark the start of the official countdown to the big day.'
It's worth noting that putting up the tree early may be better if you have an artificial tree. You can put up a real one in the first week of December, but you'll need to know how to care for a Christmas tree properly to make sure it's still looking its best on Christmas day.
2. Get everyone involved
One of the joys of Christmas is how it brings family and friends together, so don't make decorating the house a solo activity – even if it seems the most effective way to get things done.
'Like any team activity, meetings with family or housemates are a great start. Identify what needs to be done, make a list, and ask people to sign up for one or two of the task,' suggests psychotherapist and interior designer, Helen Sanderson. 'People will generally take more ownership of something they have chosen, rather than what they have been allocated.'
3. Plan ahead
If you love to decorate with fresh foliage, fruits and other natural materials, try to build up a stock before December, so you don't find bare hedgerows when you go out to forage for festive greenery.
'I like to gather certain pieces throughout the year and store them in a dry place, ready to use whenever I wish to begin decorating for the festive season,' says floral designer Celeste Hyland of Celeste Rose Design.
'I collect and dry flowers, fruit slices, teasels, echinacea seedheads and more throughout the year. I also like to collect fallen pine cones. All of these need to be stored somewhere away from damp and little nibbly friends and insects.'
4. Decorate in stages
One of the benefits of putting up your Christmas decorations early is that the festive season arrives with a bang. But if you want to build the excitement more gradually, consider decorating in stages – perhaps your front door wreath and door or staircase garland first, followed by a decorated mantelpiece, then the Christmas tree as a festive finale.
'Whether you put decorations up all in one go or in stages will depend on your personality, schedule and timelines,' says Helen Sanderson. 'If you are someone who generally is a starter and not a completer, or tends to procrastinate, then it would be wise to do it all in one go, as coming back to things will be harder for you. If you are likely to get stressed and overwhelmed, break it down into manageable stages.'
5. Choose long-lasting foliage
When you're putting up your Christmas decorations early, choose foliage and trimmings that can last throughout December for the freshest look.
'Some pine, fir and evergreen foliage will last well for a whole month when hung on a door wreath out of direct sunlight and battering rain/wind,' says floral designer Celeste Hyland. 'Indoor garlands and foliage will begin to dry out if not in a direct water source, although they can still look lovely even when they begin to crisp up. Berries do not last long and unless within an arrangement in water, I would only use in a wreath if hung a bit later in December.'
Choosing a mix of long-lasting foliage, then adding in dried flowers and grasses, can bring longevity to your displays.
'I generally like to decorate using a solid base of foliage and greenery first, whether that's a garland or table piece,' explains Celeste. 'I then go in with dried flowers, seedheads, grasses and more to create height and layers of texture. If I create a piece using berries at the beginning of December, I will very likely go back and replace these with fresh ones nearer to Christmas.'
6. Bring in festive aromas
Scent is so evocative, and there are certain smells that are associated with Christmas – spices such as cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg; fruits including cranberries and orange; and foliage such as pine leaves. Burn a festive candle, put out a Christmas scent, or choose naturally scented decorations such as dried orange slices to bring the fragrance of the season into your home.
'Most pine and fir trees bring a beautiful scent into the home, as does eucalyptus which I grow in my own garden. Even the trusty conifer has a lovely scent to it,' says Celeste Hyland. 'The warmth of being indoors usually brings the aroma out nicely, giving that beautiful and added festive feel to the home. Adding dried fruit and cinnamon sticks to indoor arrangements will add to the seasonal scent, too.'
The feelgood effect of scent is another benefit of decorating for Christmas early.
'The festive season – with all the gifting, spending and organising that comes with it – brings a need for respite, and the right home scent can bring about this much-needed downtime. Floral notes such as ylang ylang or jasmine can lower blood pressure and simmer down stress in a few short minutes,' explains Kamila Miller from candle company Charles Farris.
Scents also help us to indulge in nostalgia. 'Christmas is special to so many, not because of how it makes us feel in the moment, but how it makes us remember the magic of the past,' says Kamila. 'If you're longing for the feelings of Christmases past, you can't go wrong with the spicy warmth of cinnamon in an evening hot chocolate, the unmistakable aroma of nutmeg and clove, as well as the cold crispness of pine in the winter air.'
Finally, certain festive scents can help to give us a boost when we're flagging. 'Classic notes of pine, orange, and cinnamon work wonder to complete that Christmas scene and invigorate the senses,' says Kamila. 'Where pine evokes memories of a freshly cut Christmas tree and snowy landscapes, the warmth and zest of cinnamon and orange boosts the mood, creating a sense of togetherness.'
What to do if you don't want to decorate early for Christmas
Decorating for Christmas early isn't for everyone. Since a house move on the cusp of Christmas last year, Cassandra Ellis, interiors expert and founder of paint company Atelier Ellis, has started a new tradition of decorating on Christmas Eve. 'We had managed to grab the last tree on Christmas Eve and we had cleverly remembered to label the box of decorations, so we had a beautiful tree – albeit in the wrong place,' she says. But the last-minute excitement made her want to do it again this year.
If you don't want to decorate early, there are other ways to bring a festive feel and sense of excitement and expectation to your home at this time of year.
'Think about meaningful activities you can do and ways you can be, rather than what you can buy and consume,' says Helen Sanderson, who is also a declutter expert and author of The Secret Life of Clutter. 'If you have a gift drawer, clear it out, gift chosen items and donate the rest so people in need can find some treasures in the charity shops. Restart your gift drawer in January.'
Helen also suggests listening to some cheerful festive music and lighting a candle each day as you write your gift cards and do your planning. 'Spend some reflective time and keep a gratitude journal for things you have achieved in the year gone by. And if you really want to get ahead, make a date with yourself to do a vision board for your new year.'
Whether you're an early starter or a late bloomer, the trick to getting your timing right for putting up Christmas decorations is to follow your own rhythm.
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Andrea began her journalism career at Ideal Home and is currently Editor of our sister title, Country Homes & Interiors, which celebrates modern country style. Andrea is passionate about colour and how it can transform both our homes and our sense of wellbeing, and has completed The Power of Colour course with the prestigious KLC School of Design. Andrea's career spans interiors magazines, women's lifestyle titles and newspapers. After her first job at Ideal Home, she moved on to women's magazines, Options and Frank. From there it was on to the launch of Red magazine, where she stayed for 10 years and became Assistant Editor. She then shifted into freelancing, and spent 14 years writing for everyone from The Telegraph to The Sunday Times, Livingetc, Stylist and Woman & Home. She was then offered the job as Editor of Country Homes & Interiors, and now combines that role with writing for idealhome.co.uk.
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