From the editor’s desk: It’s the most hideous time of the year


I often cover controversial territory here in my editorials, but I suspect this could be the most divisive yet.

It is time to address holiday decorations, and the ongoing feud between the Thanksgiving purests, the Halloween adherents and the, “can’t wait for Christmas,” crowd.

To a visitor unfamiliar with tradition, right now, our quaint New England streets might look like something from a bad dream. Leftover skeletons, ghosts, scarecrows and goblins guard some stately manors, while reindeer, snowmen and smiling Santas welcome visitors to a house two doors down. Even in the nicest neighborhoods, where homeowners carefully walk the line to ensure their displays could never be viewed as tacky, carefully placed pumpkins and cornstalks sit beside homes covered in garland and red bow.

I submit, dear readers, that this is madness.

There are, it seems, at least two distinct camps: those who simply cannot wait to get their winter holiday glow on, and those who are steadfast in their commitment to hold back all signs of Christmas until the last bite of turkey is swallowed. Much like in politics, recent years have seen both sides grow ever-more committed to their own position, with giant inflatable turkeys staring down those who boldly cover their homes in blinking red and green lights the day after Halloween.

Before you launch into a mental defense of your personal decorating philosophy, please allow me to explain. As in most things, I consider myself a moderate on the subject, albeit within some firm boundaries.

For those who love to decorate and even get carried away, know that I am your watchful admirer and biggest fan. I was raised in a home where a six-foot-long, handmade wooden, “Merry Christmas” sign was dutifully hung above the picture window every year, then used as an identifier when providing directions to visitors year-round. (“Yes, it’s the one with where they hang the giant Christmas sign…”)

I was proud to come from such a spirited family, and now, in addition to putting up my own sometimes over-the-top displays, I set aside time nearly every year around both Halloween and Christmas to drive around and appreciate the local creativity, with my husband and I picking favorites, and expressing mock disappointment when otherwise lovely neighborhoods sit in the dark. (“Get it together people.”) We’ve inherited that giant wood sign and added enhancements, with blinking LEDs ensuring the holiday greeting is visible – even from the nearby highway.

But the weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving put a garish taint on my love for all holiday decor. “No,” I mutter, shielding my eyes as I pass dueling displays of mums surrounded by warm, orange lighting… and a life-sized Frosty. Surely, I think, neighbors must realize that when they can’t agree what to celebrate, they essentially cancel each other out, leaving their target audience – me – feeling both confused and repulsed?

And so, now, I propose a compromise, with the objective not to sour the eggnog or steal the witch’s broom, but rather, to allow our preferred seasonal decors to compliment instead of contradicting one another. As with any compromise, both sides must give as we collectively up our decorative game, bringing divided neighbors back together.

I say, the below “rules,” should govern the period between November 1 and the fourth Thursday of the month every year.

  1. Un-carved pumpkins, cornstalks and other generalized fall decor are permitted, but anything scary or ghoulish must disappear as quickly as possible. Witches, skulls, jack-o-lanterns and gravestones must be efficiently returned to their homes in storage within basements and attics.
  2. Purple lighting must be removed. Solid orange lights can remain in place, but should be limited to a few targeted locations, such as to highlight a door wreath of indiscriminate seasonal affiliation.
  3. Decorative turkeys of all shapes and size are encouraged.
  4. A discreet and respectful amount of white lighting can be hung. Green, red and other colors are prohibited until the first Friday in November.
  5. Blinking lights of any kind are banned, as are Santa Clauses, reindeer, elves and snowmen.
  6. A single tree with white lights may be erected indoors. Second and third trees, as well as trees displaying colored lighting, must be held back appropriately.

You probably disagree. If so, feel free to tell me where to stuff my turkey in the comments below.

Sandy Hall is the founder and publisher of NRI NOW.

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  1. I have to agree. I have driven by many a home with skeletons still in the yard, and they seem to be up year round so I’m not sure what they are actually celebrating.

    For me, though, it is the Christmas songs coming on the radio before Thanksgiving. What is worse is that the radio stations also end them abruptly the day after Christmas. When at least half of the songs played at Christmas are actually winter songs like Winter Wonderland or Baby It’s Cold Outside and even Jingle Bells, I wish the would continue to play some of those songs throughout the winter months.

    At least by January or February, it may truly be a Winter Wonderland. Even Frosty and some winter themed decorations and white lights could stay up throughout the winter to bring a little light and cheer on cold winter nights!

  2. Other than the 4th of July the day after all holidays the decorations should come down. OK, maybe Christmas decorations can stay up until January 1st. But on the 2nd they come right down.

    • John, I don’t put up Christmas decorations until the first Sunday of Advent – they remain until the day after the Feast of the Kings – January 6th – 12 days of Christmas.

      • Our decorations go up anytime in December, the tree in an Irish household is never taken down until January 6th, also known in Ireland as Women’s Christmas and the Feast of the Epiphany…In Ireland, there is also the tradition of “Chalking the Door,” with 20 C-M-B 23 for the 3 Kings…

  3. I love this and agree wholeheartedly. Great editorial. Sometimes I hang my Christmas lights before Thanksgiving only because of the temperatures, but usually don’t turn them on until after Turkey Day.

  4. Agreed. Except for the pumpkins. Carved jack o lanterns may remain in place until deemed acceptable for disposal by the tiny dictators running my house.

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