The other night, we had just cleaned the whole living room and set up the guinea pig cage that had arrived in the mail, and could have called it a day, but then I thought, “Why not do one more thing?” Why not bring the Christmas boxes up from the barn and put together our scrawny little tree and assortment of ornaments?

We had a nice time. Ruthie was excited and asked for the story behind every ornament. I would tell her, and she would run over to Chalupa and repeat the details. “Dad, look! This one has your picture on it!” Then, “Dad, look! I made this one last year!” And, “Dad, look! Grandma Sharon gave you this one when you were a baby!”
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Allergies prevent us from having a “real” tree, so our Christmas prep is pretty simple. Unfold the branches, insert the tree trunk sections into the right slots, string up some Christmas lights, and put my clearance-finds Christmas supplies on the mantle and desk and play kitchen. (This year’s bonus: throw away the adorable plus snowman family that a mouse had turned into its cozy winter home sometime in the last year!)

The next day, I found out that I’d made a terrible mistake. People were shocked that I could have made such an error. DIDN’T I KNOW THAT IT WASN’T EVEN THANKSGIVING YET?

That’s right! I put the tree up on November 16! That’s a whole week and a half before Thanksgiving, and a whole five and a half weeks before Christmas itself! That’s so outrageous! So out of bounds! Against the holiday rules! WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!

Here’s the thing: I understand wanting to adhere to tradition. I like tradition, and there is no holiday Americans are better at traditionalizing than Christmas. How many people get into fights on Christmas Eve because SOMEONE wants to have all the children open a gift that night when that has NEVER EVER BEEN DONE IN THIS FAMILY BEFORE! Or when someone suggests a gift exchange instead of buying everyone presents? Or when a family decides to travel to Florida for the holiday, instead of spending Christmas in their winter wonderland of the Midwest?

There are so many reasons that we like traditions. They are comforting to us. They remind us of childhood, good memories, and family members who have passed.

“Don’t decorate until after Thanksgiving” is a perfectly good tradition, but it’s not an official rule. I don’t begrudge anyone their right to feel slightly put off by seeing Christmas decor popping up a little early or even their right to say it’s not their favorite thing. The odd thing has been the rigidity that I’ve seen some people exhibit toward this arbitrary no-Christmas-before-Thanksgiving rule. It hasn’t really been something I’ve seen among my friends (except maybe my brother-in-law, but I’ve ribbed him enough about it already), but I’ve definitely seen it online and heard it among strangers in stores.

Really, though: Who gets hurt when a Christmas tree goes up before Thanksgiving? Who loses when a neighbor puts Christmas lights on their house earlier than someone thinks is appropriate? What child suffers because their house has a Santa Claus cutout on the front door in the middle of November instead of the middle of December? Does it really cause any problems that stores put out their Christmas merchandise right after (or sometimes even before!) Halloween? Does Thanksgiving somehow not get celebrated properly if there is a Christmas tree in the corner of the living room where people are eating their turkey?

On the other hand, I can think of plenty advantages to these very things: more time with the decorations (as opposed to this holiday season’s 3 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas), more room to schedule holiday events, more time to shop for Christmas decorations and gifts before things get too busy and too overwhelming. And let’s not forget: MORE REESE’S TREES.

This year, my family is going to celebrate Christmas on December 15 instead of the 25th. We alternate every other year so that all of us adult siblings can be with our spouses’ families on a rotating schedule. Does celebrating Christmas on the 15th violate some sacred date? Are our pre-school aged kids going to be traumatized because we told them that Santa made special arrangements to come to our houses a few days earlier than he normally would?

It makes sense to embrace tradition. But it’s silly to expect other people to adhere to some rule that is only a rule because you made it one. And if you insist, maybe I’ll make a rule that Christmas trees MUST come down before New Year’s. If not, you’re violating the heart of the season! You’re celebrating at the wrong time! You’re not giving New Year’s it’s rightful place in the holiday calendar! How dare you?!

Come on, now. Let’s just celebrate. If someone wants to celebrate Christmas a little early or a little late, or if someone wants to wear Christmas socks year round (yes, I’m talking about me), then they should go for it.

Hold onto your traditions if you want to, but there’s really no need to get worked up because someone else’s holiday traditions are not the same as yours.

This post is not about condemning people for loving their own traditions, though. It’s about giving permission to everyone else who wants to decorate early but feels like they shouldn’t. To those people: do whatever you want! You’re not hurting anybody, including people who feel like you’re breaking the rules. It’s Christmas! Enjoy it! And be sure to post pictures of your awesome decorations on Facebook so that I can see them!

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