It wasn't even Halloween yet when a fully lit Christmas tree appeared in the living room window of a house in my neighborhood. It looked out of place flanked by houses draped in faux spider webs and pumpkins. I wondered what would posses the homeowners to get in the Christmas spirit so early, but according to one expert, the answer is pretty simple.
Christmas stuff makes people feel good (so go ahead and get the tree out before Thanksgiving if you want).
“In a world full of stress and anxiety, people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood," psychoanalyst Steve McKeown told Unilad. “Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extends the excitement."
As Unilad points out, McKeown's theory is backed up by a study in The Journal of Environmental Psychology that examined how homeowners use exterior holiday decor to signal feelings of friendliness and connection to neighbors. When your neighbor puts up Christmas lights early, they're basically saying, "I'm social and in the holiday spirit!"
If you've been itching to get your Christmas decor out of storage, there's no time like the present. A string of lights and a "Happy Holidays" might even help you make friends with your neighbors.
Decorating early can make us happier, but overdoing Christmas music too early can have the opposite effect (so maybe don't convert your whole playlist to holiday tunes just yet, especially if you've spent a holiday season or two working in retail).
"Music goes right to our emotions immediately and it bypasses rationality," Clinical psychologist Linda Blair told Sky News. At this point in the season, we can apply the same rule to music and egg nog: small doses are best if we want to stay happy.
I'm sure the Christmas-enthused homeowners in my neighborhood are already cranking the festive tunes. My own tree isn't up yet, but I've got to admit, the sight of theirs makes me happy every time I walk by.
[Originally published Nov. 20, 2017]