I remember tales my mom used to tell of her Christmases. When she and her brother went to bed on Christmas Eve, nothing was decorated. There was no tree, no wreaths, nothing. They hung their stockings on a bare mantel.
When they woke up and came down Christmas morning, the entire house had been decorated; stockings were stuffed, and the tree was up, lit with candles, fully decorated, with presents beneath it. Santa Claus had done it all.
Oddly enough, I don’t remember any similar stories from my Dad’s side of the family.
Our homage to that family tradition was, we put the tree up Christmas Eve. It came down New Year’s Day.
Knowing this at least gave a framework. Over the years, as my sister and I got older, we’d lobby for putting some things out earlier…but it wasn’t ever anywhere near Thanksgiving, much less Halloween.
For a number of years, we wondered if it weren’t just disorganization and rank procrastination that had started the ‘story’ of Santa bringing the tree. I do understand that is another real European tradition that was carried on in some places in the States.
As an adult, I can fully see the total impracticality of the theory. That puts an amazing amount of pressure on the parents to help Santa out. Quietly. On top of all of the other seasonal demands on their time at, say, 10 p.m. Christmas Eve.
But I can imagine the totally magical effect it must have had.
Over time, as my sister and became adults, the tree got put up a bit earlier, though in Mom’s house, it always came down on New Year’s Day. As we both have our own households now, my sister and I put up our own trees, and the Christmas Eve tree is now just a family story, not a family tradition.
Personally, I find I like having the season last longer by have the tree up earlier.