Monday, December 20, 2010

When Do You Put Up Your Christmas Tree?

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree!
How lovely are your branches!

When do you put up your Christmas tree?

In an online survey of this question, 47 percent—almost half—of the 755 respondents put up their tree between Dec. 1 and 15, 33 percent—one-third—put up their tree the day after Thanksgiving. So that takes care of most of you.

The next group—13 percent—puts up their tree between Dec. 16 and 23. Five percent put up their tree on the first Sunday in Advent and two percent put it up on Christmas Eve.

Many people surveyed who put up their tree at or right after Thanksgiving say they want the “Christmas feeling.” One woman wrote, “life is too short to miss out on the good stuff,” that you should put it up if you want to. Another said, “follow your heart.” This seems to conform to the contemporary attitude of doing whatever feels good.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
“Traditionally, Christmas trees were not brought in and decorated until Christmas Eve (24 December) or, in the traditions celebrating Christmas Eve rather than first of day of Christmas, the 23 December, and then removed the day after Twelfth Night (6January); to have a tree up before or after these dates was even considered bad luck.”

Putting up a tree “early” seems to be a more recent trend. Perhaps it follows on the tail of commercialism. Did you know that Christmas was officially commercialized by an act of Congress? No kidding. Listen to this.

“So vital did Thanksgiving prove in inaugurating the Christmas season that commercial interest conspired in resetting its date,” writes Penne L. Restad in the book, “Christmas in America.” During the Great Depression, retail profits declined, and the Christmas season of 1939 was expected to be especially dismal for business because Thanksgiving fell on the last day of November.

Fred Lazarus, Jr., president of Ohio’s Federated Department Stores, “noted that by advancing the date of Thanksgiving one week, six additional days for Christmas shopping could be added to sales calendars,” Restad writes. “Persuaded by his logic, President Franklin Roosevelt moved the feast from the 30th to the 23th of November, and in 1941, Congress set the annual date of Thanksgiving at the fourth (rather than the last) Thursday in November.”

This guaranteed a four-week shopping season each year. Of course, that doesn’t stop corporations from putting up Christmas trees and playing Christmas music (spend, you consumer, spend!) in September.

I love Christmas. It’s my very favorite holiday. Especially Christmas Eve. One of the things I love about Christmas is the time leading up to it, Advent. The expectant, excited waiting. Awaiting the coming of Christ.

When I was a kid, we put up the tree on Christmas Eve. Sometimes the night before, but usually on Christmas Eve. Dad would go to a lot and bring home a tree. There were always plenty to choose from, because it seems that most people in those days (or in that part of the country?) put up their tree close to Christmas.

A woman who grew up in upstate New York told me that when she went to bed as a child on Christmas Eve, the house had no signs of Christmas. Her parents decorated the house, hung stockings, put up the tree and put the presents beneath it while she and her siblings slept. Can you imagine the glory of Christmas morning?

I decorate the house the first or second week of December. I hang old and new Christmas cards, string up lights, drape greenery about, place the Nativity on the mantle. This all sets the mood of Christmas and anticipation of the tree.

The only disadvantage to putting up the tree so close to Christmas is they’ve been pretty well picked over by the time we buy ours. That is, since Mr. Mitts died. He was a nearby neighbor who sold Christmas trees for, like, $5 to $7. Lovely trees.

Sometimes we cut a cedar from our own property. Not the greatest of trees, but the right color, shape and smell, and the price is right.

Oh, Christmas tree. It seems the English translations of “Oh, Tannenbaum” vary. I like this ending:
Each year you bring to me delight, meaning in the Christmas night
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, of all the trees most lovely.

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