I love absolutely everything about the holiday season — twinkling lights everywhere, Christmas music in my ears while I grocery shop, Hallmark movies on all day and night, and a tree in my living room the day after Halloween. I am firmly in the camp with everyone who agrees that it’s OK to put your tree up before Thanksgiving, but the question of when you should put up your Christmas tree can be a pretty polarizing topic. In my mind, there’s no such thing as “too early.” But, my opinion is just that — my opinion. What works for my family doesn’t work for everyone.
If you blindly Google “When do you put the Christmas tree up?” the results vary wildly. From Thanksgiving purists, you’ll see arguments that laud the sacrilegious nature of pre-turkey tree trimming and about a thousand valid points about dry needles and fire hazards. But, from holly jolly homebodies who just want to relish in the joy of the season as long as socially acceptable, you’ll see countless claims that artificial trees have no time limits. As it turns out, where someone falls on this scale can actually depend on whether or not they put up a real tree or an artificial one.
When should you put up a real Christmas tree?
The timing of when to put up a real Christmas tree can vary somewhat based on on whether you cut down a fresh tree that’s grown on a Christmas tree farm or if you plan to purchase a tree from a seasonal lot.
Putting up a Christmas tree that’s fresh from the farm
If chopping down your own tree is on your holiday bucket list, it’s important to time your purchase of a real Christmas tree just right. Otherwise, you really could wind up with a floor full of dry needles and droopy limbs (not to mention a giant fire hazard) by the time Santa arrives.
As Twyla Nash of Elgin Christmas Tree Farm in Elgin, Texas told Romper previously, “If you are cutting a fresh tree at a choose-and-cut farm, anytime after Thanksgiving would be appropriate for cutting your tree.” Nash says that the weekend after Thanksgiving is the most popular time to buy a fresh evergreen, but it’s also the ideal time for real tree buyers to make their selection last the few weeks until Dec. 25.
Putting up a real Christmas tree from a seasonal stand
Prefer to shop at seasonal tree stands like the ones outside of your local grocery or from the garden section of your favorite retailer? If you’re strolling through a pop-up lot any sooner than Thanksgiving, you may not have much to choose from, as these tents typically don’t start to stock their trees until the weekend after Turkey Day. However, any time after Thanksgiving is the ideal time to put up a Christmas tree you buy from the store.
When should you put up an artificial Christmas tree?
The question of when to put up an artificial tree is a bit tricker than when you’re dealing with a fresh-cut spruce. When you don’t have to worry about the potential of your tree slowly decaying before the big day, there’s more wiggle room to work with. Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily mean that putting your tree up prior to turkey day will win you any major style points.
Lindsey Jamison is one of the lead designers behind Colorado-based decor powerhouse, Rumor Designs. The company was recently named HGTV’s 2021 Designer of the Year, so they know a thing or two about how to transform a home into an ultra-stylish space. “My advice is to put your Christmas tree up anytime after Thanksgiving,” Jamison tells Romper. “Any earlier feels too soon. It's a change of seasons and the start of a festive month.”
I know what all of my fellow early decorators are thinking: But it makes me happy! It’s true. As has been widely reported by various outlets in recent years, decorating early for the holidays can make you happier. (Follow the science, right?) Jamison’s advice for those who want to enjoy a sparkly tree a bit longer isn’t to put it up early, but to leave it up post-Christmas celebration. “Keep your tree up for New Years,” she explains. “It's nice to have a beautiful tree lit to bring in the New Year. It's also nice to have for New Year's Eve parties. Jan 1, it's definitely time to take the tree down.”
How to make your Christmas tree last longer
If you plan to follow Jamison’s advice and want to leave your real Christmas tree up through the New Year, proper care and maintenance can help it last longer. Most fresh-cut Christmas trees will stay supple indoors for approximately four weeks.
First, choose your tree wisely. Needles shouldn’t drop off of the branches when you run your fingers across them. If they do, this means the tree is already drying out and won’t last as long as a tree whose needles stay on the branch. Brittle twigs or a musty smell can also indicate a less-than-healthy tree, according to the Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association.
When you return home with your tree, make a fresh cut of about half of an inch on the trunk’s base to help it absorb more water. Place the tree in a stand with plenty of water — about one quart per inch of the trunk’s diameter — away from heat sources like fire places, air vents, and space heaters. Check your tree’s water level daily, adding more as needed to keep the level consistent.
Putting up the Christmas tree? Here’s the bottom line
Even when you’re not talking about a tree, the word “should” is tricky sometimes. I should sleep when the baby sleeps (because otherwise I’m getting maybe four hours of shut-eye total) but honestly, it feels so good to marathon watch Friends reruns without a tiny, teething human clinging to me, so I don’t. That’s pretty much what the great Christmas tree debate boils down to — do what feels good to you.
If putting up your artificial tree on Nov. 1 makes you light up like a… well, like a Christmas tree, then do it. If you’d rather savor every last second of fall feels until the last bite of gravy-soaked Thanksgiving turkey has been devoured, and then chop down a real tree in the middle of a forest like Clark Griswold, do that. No matter when you choose to put your tree up, all that really matters is the joy that a glittering, ornament-filled tree will bring your family this season.
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