When To Put Up and Take Down Your Christmas Tree, Lights and Decorations

When is too early for the tree? The lights? The inflatable Santa dressed as Qui-Gon Jinn? Here's our guide to Christmas decoration etiquette.

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Unless you’re Chevy Chase from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, you’re probably not looking forward to putting up the Christmas decorations. Yes, these moments create memories for your children, but more often than not those memories involve everyone seeing your buttcrack as you contort yourself into bizarre positions in an attempt to get the Christmas tree in the right place, or put the holiday lights up in just the right pattern on your house.

Still, once you accept the manual labor and specific gymnastics of Christmas decorating is happening, there’s still a question of timing. When is it socially acceptable to put up, and take-down, your holiday lights, decorations, and Christmas Tree? We have some answers.

Full disclosure. We did not consult Emily Post or any other etiquette guide for the following. Like many holiday-based dad decisions, we went with our guts.

When Do You Put Up Your Christmas Tree?

We think the easiest rule here is to do it one of two ways. Either you put up your tree the day after Thanksgiving. Or, you put it up on Christmas Eve. Anything else is kind of random, and it’s hard to justify any kind of tradition with your kids. For example, if you randomly put up your tree on the second Tuesday of December, that’s fine, but it’s also just hard to remember or explain why.

The only good argument for later is that your tree won’t get crispy as quickly. (Assuming you’re putting up a real tree. If you’re putting up a fake tree, the day after Thanksgiving seems ideal.) Still, just pick something and stick with it. A tree is a tradition and traditions are meant to have rules.

When Do You Take Down Your Christmas Tree?

We have two answers here: Either you take it down the day after New Year’s, or you take it down when it becomes a fire hazard. Bottom line, if you have your tree up in February, that’s weird and probably dangerous.

When Do You Put Up Your Christmas Lights and Decorations?

This is definitely trickier. We can see an argument for putting up lights and house decorations before Thanksgiving, but if you do start putting up your lights even in mid-November, then you’re going to have them up for a long time.

Here’s one way to look at it: You should put up your lights based on when you think you’re going to take them down. If you’re going to take your lights down at the end of January, maybe put your lights up on December 1. If you’re gonna take your lights down at the beginning of January, then go ahead and put them up anytime in November. That said, lights make people in your neighborhood feel good, so maybe earlier is better.

When Do You Take Down Your Christmas Lights?

Of course, there is an argument that you can leave your lights up year-round, but just not illuminate them. But, when it comes to Christmas decorations, it seems like you must take them down no later than that day after New Year’s. Seeing some lights tacked-on to someone’s roof in March is one thing, seeing an inflatable snowman facedown in Spring rain in something else. Decorations need to come down well before the season changes. Or, you know, before Valentine’s Day. It’s nice to think about the Christmas spirit lasting all year long, but that doesn’t mean people want to see spirits of Christmas on the side of your house on Valentine’s Day.

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