Now that Halloween is behind us, a debate is brewing: how soon is too soon to start decorating for Christmas? If Mariah Carey is to be believed, the answer is at the stroke of midnight on November 1st—but according to our experts, it's not that simple or straightforward.
We polled some of our favorite design experts to get their take: when is the right time to start decorating for Christmas? Some of their answers may totally surprise you.
This might sound controversial, but as Jennifer Derry, the chief merchandising officer of Balsam Hill points out, when it comes to your outdoor decor, late October is just fine.
"Christmas lights are versatile and can go up as early as Halloween," she says. "Clear lights look great any time of the year, while multicolored ones create a more festive ambiance. You can also choose customizable lights, which make it easy to change colors to match the season.”
Lizzie McGraw, the author of Creative Style, tells us, that—albeit, very subtly—she starts preparing for Christmas decorating in November.
"In my home, you will notice glass jars filled with antique ornaments and the outdoor lights on in November," she shares. "It sets a tone that family time is coming. It’s also great to have the yard lit in a festive way for impromptu gatherings.”
Bria Hammel, the CEO and Creative Director of Bria Hammel Interiors, will also decorate ahead of Thanksgiving—but under one condition. “It really depends on if I’m hosting Thanksgiving or not,” she says. “If I’m not hosting, I’ll decorate the weekend or week prior to Thanksgiving—that way, everything is decorated and ready to kick off the holiday season on Black Friday.”
Designer Emma Long of Aspen & Ivy says that she starts hanging her outdoor decor early as a weather-beating hack. “We start putting up our outdoor lights right after Halloween in hopes that we can beat the snow while working outside—but they don’t turn on until the last week of November,” she says.
“Switch out your fall wreaths and garlands for winter greenery in late November,” Derry says. “If they’re not explicitly Christmas-themed, you can put them up even before Thanksgiving. Hang them on the front door, mantel, and outdoor spaces.”
If you're looking for the most popular time to decorate, the Friday immediately following Thanksgiving into the weekend after is most definitely it.
“If I am hosting Thanksgiving, I’ll wait and decorate on Black Friday,” Hammel says. “That way, we’re not carving a turkey with a Christmas tree in the background. I have to focus on one holiday at a time."
Jasmine Williams, the founder of decor brand SUNNY&TED, wholeheartedly agrees. “One of my favorite family traditions is to put up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving,” she says. “This allows us to enjoy the tree all Christmas season and gives us something to do over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Plus, if you buy a real tree, you get to enjoy that fresh pine smell longer.”
Designer Courtney B. Smith also waits until Thanksgiving has passed, noting, “I like to really savor Thanksgiving, and I don’t feel like we do it justice by putting up a holiday decor in October.”
“Growing up, my family had the tradition of putting up the Christmas tree and decorating in the days following Thanksgiving,” adds designer Samantha Tannehill of Sam Tannehill Designs. “We enjoyed filling the house with holiday cheer right away to enjoy for the weeks leading up to the big day."
Sara Malek Barney of BANDD/DESIGN also agrees, noting that she just can't get into the Christmas spirit until the day after Thanksgiving. "Our family tradition is to decorate the weekend after we celebrate Thanksgiving," she says. "It may take a few days to get it all completed, but we try to finish up that weekend.”
While Williams says her tree goes up every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving, she slowly rolls out the rest of her decor into December. “Wreaths, garlands, Christmas pillows, and holiday flatware are added in around our house by the first week of December,” she tells us.
Long says that she also waits until the first week of December for her indoor decor to come out. “You can slowly work in pieces, as some decor falls more into the ‘winter’ theme and not exclusively Christmas," she explains. "For my family, we always do a real tree, so the Christmas decor comes out before we get out of the tree.”
Hammel tells us that, no matter when she begins, she prioritizes her indoor decor over her outdoor decor.
“We really go all out for the holidays at my home, so it’s sometimes hard to decorate both inside and out in one week,” she tells us. “Dedicating one weekend indoors and one weekend to the outside of our home is more manageable. I’m sure my husband would like to just crank it out in one weekend, though."
John McClain of John McClain Design agrees, noting that he always decorates his indoors on Black Friday but saves the outdoors for the next day.
“After a full day of decorating my interior, I’m usually ready for a movie and a cup of holiday hope, (read: pitcher)," he says. "But no fear, Black Friday is always followed by a full weekend of decorating."
Throughout the Whole Season
Regardless of when you begin, Hammel tells us part of the fun is letting your own style evolve throughout the season. “Being a designer, I create mood boards or themes around the numerous trees in my home, but, like anyone, my style evolves over time," she explains. "As I transition pieces out, I’ll shop during the holiday season to pop new festive accents in."
Smith tells us that while she’s “a one-and-done believer,” there’s one thing she waits to hang. “The stockings don’t come out until the week of Christmas,” she says.
On the 25th
Even if you’ve decorated your whole home, indoors and out, there are a few items that experts say can—and maybe should—be held until the big day has arrived.
“I’ll do fresh greenery and florals on the day of," Hammel says. "That way, they aren’t dried out or dead by the time guests arrive."
Williams has her own day-of addition: “I wait to pile Christmas presents under the tree. My children are four and one and have busy fingers, so we don’t want them opening presents up early,” she tells us.
While designer Ginger Curtis of Urbanology Designs says they hang all of their decor just after Thanksgiving, there is one thing she saves for Christmas Eve.
“The handmade knit stockings my grandma made for all of my kids," she shares. "I also pulled out the knit green one she made me when I was 5 years old. These all get generously stuffed with Christmas goodies, and then my husband and I set them out in front of the tree."
“I have learned to never fill the stockings until right before I go to bed on Christmas Eve,” McClain agrees. “It’s amazing how the mice are stirring when they know candy, cards, and gifts are out in the open…”
“The tablescape and pieces for Christmas dinner will be saved until Christmas Eve,” Malek Barney adds. “We wait until then to decorate and lay out the table.”
A Little Bit, All Year Long
As a true lover of the holidays, Williams let us in on a little secret. “I keep my Cocoa Santa and Mrs. Cocoa Claus mugs year-round, tucked into the back of my cupboard for the days that need a little extra magic,” she says.
As Derry tells us, “When to put up your tree depends on whether it’s real or artificial. Fresh trees typically last four to five weeks, so you might have to wait closer to Christmas if you want it to last through the season. Artificial Christmas trees, on the other hand, don’t require much upkeep and last for many years,” which makes them easy to put up as early as you’d like.
Whenever You Want!
Derry tells us that in the end, it’s entirely up to you.
“There’s no hard rule when it comes to holiday decorating,” she says. “Some put up their decor after Thanksgiving, while others wait until the first of December. There are also those who prefer to start as soon as Halloween ends. No matter when you start, it’s all about doing what you enjoy the most and savoring the season.”
No matter when you start, it’s all about doing what you enjoy the most and savoring the season.