Tree Day, or our Christmas Before Christmas tradition

December 5 | Guest post by Katy & Anthony Hillman
Christmas tree
By: vasile23CC BY 2.0

If you want to get some idea of our attitude towards Christmas, look for the song White Wine In The Sun by Tim Minchin. Neither of us are at all religious, we "just really like it." Christmas is one of our favourite times of the year, because it's the one time where we can spend any significant amount of time with our families without obligations like work getting in the way.

This year will be the ninth Christmas since we moved in together. It will also be the ninth Christmas in a row that we've spent away from home. You see, because seeing our families is important to us, every year we go to stay at one or other of our parents' (we go to the other pair for New Year, and alternate the following year).

So, every first Saturday in December, we set up the Christmas tree, and Katy covers any feasible surface (as well as some unfeasible ones) in tinsel and fake holly. This may seem to be a bit early for some people (it's the earliest Katy will allow it, after years of working in retail and decorating the shop in September), but we figured if we're not going to be there over the actual holiday, we're gonna enjoy the decorations while we can, damnit!

Over the first few years of doing this, the first Saturday in December gradually evolved into our own private little holiday, which we call Tree Day. This evolution happened without us really noticing it at first…

At one point we decided it would be nice to have mulled wine while we put the decorations up, because nothing says Christmas like "alcohol at lunch time."

Then we decided that we really wanted to make Christmas dinner for ourselves, but we never got a chance. Our solution? Do it on Tree Day, complete with Christmas pudding (and a small cut of turkey, because there's no way we can get through a whole bird ourselves).

Nowadays, the celebration has expanded to include ritual viewings The Nightmare Before Christmas (it's a perfect time to watch it… right between Halloween and Christmas), and listening to "alternative" Christmas songs. The aforementioned White Wine In The Sun? That's in there:

Corey Taylor of Slipknot's XMA$? Yep. The South Park album Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics? Throw that on, too! Basically, anything that's different to the traditional Christmas song has been apprehended and included in our Tree Day playlist.

The end result of this is the best of both worlds: We get to have Christmas our way, with the just two of us on Tree Day, and when the real Christmas rolls around a couple of weeks later, we get to spend quality time with our families. It also serves to make the erection of the Christmas tree and decorating of our flat into its own special ritual and celebration when it could be seen as just a chore.

I love this idea so much, I might want to adopt it. So what are YOUR Christmas tree decorating traditions?

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  1. We do the same alternating family Christmas thing and this evening we're putting up the tree. I love how you've made it into your own special tradition to kick off the festive season. It'd be something I'd love to do as well, so I've emailed your story to my husband!

  2. Sounds like a lovely idea except my husband is a bit grinchlike at christmas, he'll put decorations up if I ask him to (I'm a short arse so can't reach the high up stuff) but isn't really into decorations and trees.

    We do alternate too – also with one year staying at home except this year his uncle gets married on December 22nd so we are hot footing it to North Wales First, then assuming we don't get snowed into wales we are driving to my parents on christmas eve to Sheffield.

  3. My husband dislikes Christmas and living with his Johovas Witness father means nothing Christmassy in the house. I'd like to think when we have our own place that maybe a day like Tree Day could entice my husband into being a bit less bah hum bug!

  4. I love this! In college, I would use our little tree to motivate me to write papers. Each page finished I got to hang an ornament. Now that we're out of school I have found it isn't as fun for me, so this year I invited over some friends (since my husband doesn't like to put up more than an ornament or two), made mulled cider, and had them help me decorate the tree. Next year I'd like to have an ornament making station to up the ante a little. 🙂

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  5. My traditional "dressing the tree" song is God Is In The House by Nick Cave. The lyrics are decidedly tongue in cheek, but the melody is lovely and gentle. I have very fond memories of dressing the tree with this song in the background whilst my partner napped on the couch and I felt like everything was wonderful.

    Another favourite is "This Must Be The Place" as done by Postmodern Jukebox – it's got that wonderful jazz sound that so many classic Christmas carols have, only even better lyrics. These songs both make me feel like I am in a safe and beautiful place, which is a great feeling to have as you put up Christmas decorations.

  6. No seriously, I love this idea and I want to steal it.

    My favorite tree decorating was the time my friend told me that he was depressed and wanted to experience a little Christmas. And, when I got our tree, could I please invite him over so he could help me decorate. Then another friend asked to hang that same night, and then we decided to invite over a bunch of friends and all decorate the tree together. It was magical.

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    • My parents used to throw a Tree Trimming Party every year. They provided eggnog (and food) and put up the tree and pulled out the ornament boxes. Then all their friends and neighbors came over, hung out, and decorated the tree for them.

  7. Thank you for posting a link to that Corey Taylor tune. How I had never seen this until today will forever be a mystery to my sarcastic Slipknot loving self.

  8. Yay! We do tree day too, with mulled wine, chestnuts, and Christmas music. We often pick up a Christmas ornament on our travels, so we love unpacking all the ornaments and remembering our adventures.

    I love your dinner idea!

  9. We do tree day too! On the same day actually, first Saturday of December! This is how ours evolved:
    My husband's family always put theirs up the day after Thanksgiving which to me is just too damn early. My family doesn't take theirs down until February which to him (and me too actually) is way too late! So we decided our tree would go up on the first Saturday of December and come down on the first Saturday of January. While we decorate we listen to Sarah McLaughlin's Christmas albums and when we're all done we bask in the glow of the tree and watch Die Hard.

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