When it comes to putting up Christmas decorations, there’s an unspoken, albeit somewhat arbitrary, rule which defines how early is too early. For example, in the US, many people wait until after Thanksgiving, while in other countries, this can vary between December 1 and the week before Christmas. But as with many other things this year, this rule doesn’t seem to matter anymore, with many people putting up the Christmas tree as early as November. And while society might frown upon those who decorate “too early”, there is a good argument in favour of breaking out your Christmas decorations when you want, not when you should.
Put simply, Christmas decorations make us feel good. Now, of course, the question is: why is that? For one, seeing the Christmas decorations around our house puts us in a context in which past Christmas-related memories can be more readily triggered. And, as this is usually a happy time, we are basically reminded of more cheerful times, which in turn can lift our mood (and that’s something we all probably need right now).
Furthermore, preparing the house for Christmas is a ritual that many of us have done time and time again, and, as research shows, the act of performing any kind of ritual tends to bring comfort and consolation, as well as improve our mental well-being.
Finally, in a year marked by dread and uncertainty, having some positive towards which to look forward can be hard to come by. But early decorating can help you in that respect, as it allows you to more easily visualize the free days full of delicious-smelling cookies and sappy holiday movies.
Of course, depending on each person’s circumstances and personality, putting up Christmas decorations can also be detrimental to their mood. If, for example, you have a tendency towards “seeing the glass half-empty” (like I do), instead of focusing on the happy memories you’ve made through years, you will more readily think about how bleak this Christmas will be, because your family is not around and you cannot go anywhere (not that you would’ve gone somewhere, but it would’ve been nice to have the option). Or if your memories of this time are not that great in the first place, you most likely don’t want an even earlier reminder for them.
The bottom line, though, is as follows: from a neuropsychological perspective, Christmas decorations can serve as a powerful memory trigger, can help you define a point in the future towards which to look forward, and, through the ritualic nature of putting them up, they can offer you some much-needed comfort. However, given their strong capacity of triggering memories, you’re the only one who can decide if you’d rather be reminded of past Christmases or not.
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