Learn the Best Time to Put up Your Christmas Tree for the Holidays

Close-up of Christmas tree decoration indoors
Determiningg the right time to put up a Christmas tree is easy. Holger Langmaier / EyeEm / Getty Images

Every year, it seems that Christmas decorations start appearing a little bit earlier, and stores are now playing Christmas music even before Thanksgiving (and a few stores even start before Halloween). In many parts of the United States, fresh Christmas trees go on sale on Thanksgiving Day, and many people now decorate their Christmas trees the weekend after Thanksgiving. But is there a proper time to put up your Christmas tree?

The Traditional Answer

Traditionally, Catholics and most other Christians did not put up their Christmas trees until afternoon on Christmas Eve. The same was true of all Christmas decorations. The purpose of the tree and the decorations are to celebrate the feast of Christmas, which begins with the celebration of Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. By putting your Christmas tree up early, you anticipate the feast of Christmas, and Christmas Day itself can lose some of its sense of joyfulness when it finally does arrive.

This tradition made sense on a practical level as well. The freshly cut tree was illuminated with candles. The fire danger from candles or even hot electrical lights increases dramatically each day after the tree has been cut and brought inside.

Shortchanging Advent

Because of the commercialization of Christmas and the modern creation of a "holiday season" that begins on Thanksgiving Day and runs through Christmas Day (or perhaps through New Year's Day), most Christians today spend the entire season of Advent celebrating Christmas rather than preparing for it. It's natural, in the cold, gray days of winter, to want to enjoy the pleasures of hearth and home, and the greenery of the tree and the colors of the decorations add to that enjoyment. But you can get some of those same pleasures, while still preserving the Advent season, by taking part in Advent activities and devotions, such as the Advent wreath and Advent calendars.

Gaudete Sunday: A Reasonable Compromise

Of course, these days, if you wait until Christmas Eve to purchase your Christmas tree, you are likely to end up with a sad, spindly looking stick like the one that Charlie Brown brings to the Christmas pageant in "A Charlie Brown Christmas." On the other hand, you might get your tree at a very low price, or even free, but that's not necessarily a good thing. But holding off on purchasing a tree until Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday in Advent, and then decorating it as late as possible is a reasonable compromise.

Even if circumstances make it necessary to put up the Christmas tree earlier in Advent, you can still maintain some sense of the Advent season by not lighting the lights until Christmas Eve, or by putting out your most precious decorations (and perhaps the star for the top of the tree) only once Christmas Eve rolls around. Such practices, as well as other Christmas Eve customs, increase the sense of expectation, especially among young children, and make Christmas Day all the more joyful.

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Your Citation
Richert, Scott P. "Learn the Best Time to Put up Your Christmas Tree for the Holidays." Learn Religions, Sep. 21, 2021, learnreligions.com/when-to-put-up-christmas-tree-542171. Richert, Scott P. (2021, September 21). Learn the Best Time to Put up Your Christmas Tree for the Holidays. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/when-to-put-up-christmas-tree-542171 Richert, Scott P. "Learn the Best Time to Put up Your Christmas Tree for the Holidays." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/when-to-put-up-christmas-tree-542171 (accessed March 27, 2023).