We’ve all heard the “rules” about waiting until December to string up our holiday lights.
Those who like to hang decorations a little earlier still stress waiting until after Veteran’s Day, which is in mid-November, or Thanksgiving, which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States.
But if you love decorating your home—inside or outside or both—why do you have to wait? Here’s why it’s okay to put up your lights early.
The Rules are Just Guidelines
We’re not sure who first stipulated that you need to wait until a specific date or time to celebrate your holiday season, or that you had to hold off hanging lights until the calendar reached a milestone. Those rules are not a hard and fast decree that you need to follow.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ōmisoka, or some other special day in December—religious or otherwise,1 or you simply find joy in having lights hanging in the house, you be you!
There’s even some research to support the benefits of “being yourself.” One study stated that “being oneself” is related positively to well-being, even when being yourself sets you apart from others. Humans have a desire to be authentic, which correlates with higher levels of satisfaction. We also like to be unique, which can also be fulfilled.2
Researchers concluded that: “openness and acceptance must be encouraged on a broader scale in order for individuals and societies to flourish.”2 So if your neighbor decorates early, be open to their uniqueness too.
Another study, related to job interviews and other situations when you first meet someone, called the process of being authentic “self-verification,” or presenting your view of yourself. However, your desire to be seen honestly by others can include having them see your negative qualities, and not just your positive ones.3 That’s not a bad thing either.
Which is not to say that decorating early is a negative quality. But there are those who would frown upon a string of lights outside your home in November. Maybe that shouldn’t matter if it reflects the real you, and it makes you feel good.
Which brings us to the next reason why it’s okay to put up your lights early.
It Makes You Feel Good
The special feeling you get when you decorate your home is not just passing fancy. There could be hard evidence that it does indeed make you feel good.
Psychologist Deborah Serani has stated that decorating lifts your mood, creating a “neurological shift that can produce happiness,” and providing a spike in dopamine, a “feel-good hormone.”4
She cites several reasons for the positive mood provided by Christmas (or other holiday) decorations:4
- The bright lights and colors are a type of color therapy, which is believed to boost both happiness and energy levels.
- The ambiance of a decorated tree or yard is likely to make anyone smile.
- The decorations provide a nostalgia for the past and our childhood, or reflect how children find joy in the holiday season.
If nothing else, the bright lights and joy in your living room and outside your house can help counter the shorter days and longer nights of the winter months. So go ahead and string red and green lights to make a Christmas tree, or blue and white lights on a Hanukkah bush, or put the seven-branch candle holder known as a kinara in the window for Kwanzaa. Do what makes you feel good.
It Makes Others Feel Good About You
Never mind those who pooh-pooh the idea that you should wait to hang lights. Research shows that it’s good for the neighborhood.
Here are a few examples:
1. Homeowners in the United States may use outdoor holiday decorations to communicate “friendliness and cohesiveness” with neighbors.5
2. People rating the appearance of homes ranked those with Christmas decorations as having residents that were friendly and cohesive. Put another way, decoration interacted with sociability.5
3. Researchers concluded that decorating the outside of your home can communicate attachment to the neighborhood.5
Look After Yourself
Not everyone has happy, joyful memories of the holiday season. Perhaps your childhood memories are difficult, or you’re dealing with grief over the loss of a loved one.
If that’s the case, and the thought of decorating early and celebrating the season is not pleasant, consider creating a new tradition. Maybe instead of hanging lights, you can light a candle in memory, or honor your loved one by eating his or her favorite food. Consider a new tradition or altering an old tradition to fit better with the new phase in your life.
And if the season is causing more than a little sadness, seek help. Don’t suffer alone. Use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you who specializes in women’s health and can provide you with guidance to look after yourself all year long.