Starting within a couple of days after Halloween, I saw Christmas decorations appearing in and on neighboring houses. Now, within a three-mile radius of my house, I’ve counted at least seven instances of lights on porches, stockings and candles hanging in windows, fully-decorated trees in family-room windows, and even an electric nativity scene! Look, people, we’ve all had a very trying year, but that’s no excuse for letting our standards completely evaporate. Let me offer you some guidelines for proper observance of the season.

  1. Starting on November 20th, you may start singing and listening to Christmas music, at least by yourself (some style guides say it’s better to wait until later in the month before playing seasonal music in a shared environment). 35 days is plenty of time to enjoy all the musical delights the holiday has to offer. It’s best to start with the light-hearted carols at the end of November, and progress to the choral music in December.
  2. Decorations may go up during the week of Thanksgiving, depending on your circumstances. For instance, we’ll be hosting my parents this year, so our decorations won’t go up until the day after. If my parents were hosting, however, I might start decorating earlier in the week. Thanksgiving Day, one of the few days that actually count as a day off from work, at least for me, is a good time to put up any outside decorations. The general rule is, start decorating inside the house and work your way outside.
  3. I don’t know about you, but we heard William Dean Howells’ story Christmas Every Day read to us in elementary school, which taught us respect for keeping holidays in their proper place. What would happen if it were Christmas every day? You’d soon be sick of it. How does it start? When you start stepping on Halloween’s heels out of impatience. Maybe you need to re-acquaint yourselves with this story.
  4. Remember, November is not the boring middle child stuck in between its two more flamboyant siblings. Autumn deserves our contemplative attention for a bit longer; there’s no need to hurry into winter already. Stop looking forward to presents and turn your focus back toward the falling leaves, the encroaching twilight, and a sense of gratitude.

I trust we won’t need to have this talk again.