December 8, 2021

Decorate now, but delay the music (unless you’d rather)

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Ron VanDee of Cortland checks on the many holiday decorations stored Tuesday in his basement.

It’s just past the Thanksgiving holiday this year
When jingles about Santa dance through your ears.
He’s watching and waiting, planning surely.
It’s all way too early.
But what of the music, decorations and cheer?
The stress of the season is overloaded with fear.
Later you’re driving home and pass a couple of houses on your street,
First the Petermans; next the Bradshaws; lastly the McFleets.
All have one thing in common — a Christmas display, a show so elite.
They decorated their lawns, their roofs not so bare.
The ornaments bring back memories so fair.
Some people are filled with the Christmas cheer
While the Grinches look to steal the roast beast this year.
They’ll put off the holiday as long as they can.
Yet others will indulge throughout their life span.

Decorating early

The Independent, a British online newspaper, reported that decorating early can bring back childhood memories. It cites psychologists and the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

Yet some people hold off until after Thanksgiving, like Ron VanDee.

“I like to give Thanksgiving its own holiday,” he said.

One reason he breaks out the lights — to spend time with the grandkids. “That’s why,” he said.

But some people they are already a few weeks into decorations, which hold a different meaning.

Tammy Magee has family from out of state who fly in for Thanksgiving. They aren’t able to make it back for the Christmas holiday so she does something special.

Magee’s front lawn is strewn with lights, a Santa statue and other Christmas decorations. For about 10 years she has decorated the front lawn early. “I just like to make it festive for the rest of the family,” she said Monday.

The colorful lights and festive scenes are inevitable for some. With the snow piling up creating a winter wonderland and time creeping ever closer to those last few days of December, more decoration may be popping up.

In the Independent’s report, Steve McKeown — a psychoanalyst, founder of MindFixers and owner of The McKeown Clinic — decorating early can bring feelings of nostalgia.

“In a world full of stress and anxiety people like to associate things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood,” McKeown said in the report.

Magee agrees. “It does relieve stress,” she said. People walking by stop and tell Magee they like the decorations. A neighbor particularly enjoys them.

Decorating early could reduce stress, but for many it gets into tradition, said Jennifer Talarico, the Mental Health Program director at Family Counseling Services. “It brings out positive memories from their childhood and the past,” she said.

Some people might already have the tree up, she said. But for others, decorating could be a cause of stress. “For some people procrastination can cause more stress,” Talarico said.

So when should people deck the halls and spruce up the tree?

“It’s personal preference,” Talarico said.

Early music
Along with decorating early is the thought of jingles and jangles lingering on the airways of department stores or while driving.

People know the feeling — they climb in the car, buckle their seat belts and turn the car on. Just as the key flips on the car, the radio plays a song everybody old and young knows the tune and at least some of the words to. It’s “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” or “Linus and Lucy” from the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

Either way, it’s Christmas themed. It’s nostalgia, and sometimes a major annoyance and even some stress.

Listening to Christmas songs on repeat could actually have a negative effect on the brain, according to Linda Blair, a psychologist quoted in a news report from the Independent. “People working in the shops at Christmas have to tune out Christmas music because if they don’t, it really does stop you from being able to focus on anything else,” the Independent reported.

Once again it depends on the person, Talarico said.

Some people may experience pleasant memories from the music. Others can feel sad or stressed. “For various reasons it can be triggering,” Talarico said. “It can both ways.”

At Olde Homer House, at 5 S. Main St. in Homer, the sounds of “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” waited until Black Friday. “I want Thanksgiving to hit before Christmas,” said Stephanie Fox, owner of the Olde Homer House.

Things have been that way since Fox took over the business almost two years ago.

Fox said some people want everything to be Christmas as soon as November hits, but there are some who enjoy the delay, she said.

People’s choices vary on whether to play music early or wait. One thing though, ask a group of people their favorite holiday tune and their least favorite and get ready for a 10-minute conversation.