Deck the halls - and your spirits may rise

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This is one year when the naysayers who nag about putting up Christmas decorations early are coming up on the short end of the candy cane.

This is one election, so to speak, when not only have the polls been correct, but the ballots have already been counted.

The outcome?

Putting up decorations early this year is acceptable. It’s cool. It’s caring. It’s even smart.

Folks have been talking about and acting upon this concept for weeks now, sometimes even months.

Multiple news stories the third week of March showed that people around the globe had put their Christmas lights back up to bring cheer into the gloomy lock-down world. The movement even had a hashtag: #lightsforlife. Now, the subject of Christmas decorations is back in the news.

Consider this headline from Good Housekeeping magazine: Putting Your Holiday Decorations Up Early Could Make You Happier, According to Experts.

I’ve been encountering the topic in my personal life as well. I regularly drive by one Ruston home where outside Christmas lights have been up for weeks. In a recent Zoom rehearsal for Piney Hills Harmony, several people said they’re planning to adorn their houses with all things Christmas-y in the very near future. One of my former students, Louisiana Tech journalism graduate Beth Colvin, posted on Facebook:

“I am decorating the outside for Christmas. Do not come for me. I will stick a holly jolly so far up your butt that you’ll sneeze tinsel. I need cheer, dammit, and it doesn’t get cheerier than Cora (her daughter) with an eight-foot-tall inflatable AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport) reindeer.”

So what’s the deal?

Depression expert psychologist Deborah Serani said - way back in 2018 but the quote still circulates widely today - “Christmas decorating will spike dopamine, a feel-good hormone.” That then creates a neurological shift that can produce happiness. Nostalgia about happier times is one reason Christmas decorating can achieve this.

The early-decorating-increased-happiness phenomenon also has something to do with what psychologists call savoring, such as the feel-good time of planning before you actually take a trip or those anticipatory minutes as you await your pancakes after you’ve ordered them. Such expectation can actually increase the good time, bringing your spirit to a happier level and helping retain that cheer longer.

Tiphero.com says there’s even more good news about early decorating: “Not only will the early birds feel a sense of happiness, but research shows, so will your neighbors. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology showed that your neighbors may interpret you putting up Christmas decorations as a sign that you’re sociable and approachable.”

As we might expect, though, homeowners aren’t the only ones pondering early Christmas matters. Businesses are, too. With our plethora of crises - the pandemic, job losses, pay cuts, a prickly presidential election - retailers have been wondering how to get people in a holiday-spending mood.

So we’ve seen holiday promotions even in October, and Black Friday events have expanded to include practically all of November. But customers don’t seem to mind. The Los Angeles Times reported that both Halloween and Christmas items have been selling out during our semi-homebound existence. The author said it better than I could ever hope to: “Decorations, baby. Get ready for a retina blowout.”

Hubby and I fit into this scene in our own little way. Our electric Jack-o-lantern has been moved from the porch to the hallway, and I still plug it in almost every night.

And in the living room, our little table top tree that I inherited from Mama sparkles aplenty with its multi-colored lights. We never took it down from last year.

Sallie Rose Hollis is a Union Parish native, retired Louisiana Tech associate professor of journalism and Ruston resident. She can be reached via email at sallierose@mail.com.