Around my house my boys are aware of "the rules." Most of them are typical fare: Clean up what you spill, tell the truth, don't hit your brother over the head with his hockey stick (Use your own hockey stick instead).
But the big rule and the one that prompts regular "Dad, they're breaking the rules" cries from the backseat has to do with the appearance of Christmas decorations well before their time. It's a pretty simple rule. No Christmas lights or songs before Thanksgiving. I don't want to see wreaths lining the street lights. I'm not ready to see your kids in their matching sweaters on your holiday card. I don't want to hear a single "ho" in a car ad, much less three "ho"s in jolly succession.
Now before your think this is some killjoy "War on Christmas" stance, I maintain the opposite. Christmas time is special in our family, even for me (I'm Jewish, but my wife is not). I enjoy the spirit, and the lights, and most Christmas songs that don't sound like they were conceived in a five-minute span in a marketing meeting. Whatever objection I have to premature decorations is the same disdain I have for people who nibble on the plate of brownies before dinner, or who give their 7-year-olds phones because they think it's cute to be friends with them on Facebook. This isn't just about power of delayed gratification, but about preserving the sanctity of a defined event by not spreading it too thin.
(And to be fair I feel the same way about other dates on the calendar: I don't want to read about a "Back to School" sale in the middle of July, or see Halloween pumpkins before October, and if you're one of those weird families who puts out Valentine's Day decorations, then at least wait until we've crossed into the new year).
Anyway, I mention all this because I could be going about this all wrong. According to Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and best-selling author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, the presence of early Christmas decorations are actually linked to increased happiness. As Morin says, rather than detract from the spirit of a holiday, early decorations help us channel our younger, more innocent selves when we simply enjoyed holidays and didn't create scornful "rules" about people who simply want to get in on the fun a little early.
"The holiday season stirs up a sense of nostalgia. Nostalgia helps link people to their personal past and it helps people understand their identity. For many putting up Christmas decorations early is a way for them to reconnect with their childhoods," Morin told the British website UNILAD.
Another psychoanalyst Steven McKeon echoed the sentiment.
"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," he said.
This is as good a point as any. With so much anger in the world these days, it's hard for me to resent anyone who seeks to make it even a little bit brighter. I might not be ready to put up my own lights before December. But I at least promise to stop egging the houses of the people who do.