When do you ‘deck the halls’?

I’ll be honest I’ve been itching to put the decorations up since bonfire night! But, so far, I’ve resisted the urge – contenting myself with wandering around the beautiful Christmas displays at country houses and garden centres, making notes and stealing ideas as I go.

Who can resist the wonder of Narnia at Castle Howard or the beautifully tasteful displays at Burton Agnes Hall – well, clearly I can’t!

Garden Centres outdo themselves every year, turning into magical wonderlands with festive events galore to tempt us in. From a Festive Farm Event at Eastfield Garden Centre to the spectacular Santa Grotto at Irton Garden Centre – you can go nuts!

Will the magic fade?

The question is – will it spoil if I go mad too soon? Will the magic fade before the big day itself? The perfect Christmas surely means it’s got to be a gradual build-up – tiny drops of magic building with ever more significant momentum to the final magical Christmas morning… hasn’t it?

Actually no! As you might expect, there’s been a study into this! (Don’t laugh!) The Journal of Environmental Psychology discovered that putting your decorations up early and just the act of decorating your tree can make you feel happier by releasing happy hormones (as I like to call them).

Let’s face it many of us could do with a bit more of that in the current climate. Not only that but putting decorations up outside your house makes you appear more friendly. 😍

An ever-increasing number of people put their decorations up at the end of November, or basically at the start of Advent: Sunday 28 November with younger people putting their decorations up even earlier.

Great idea, but if you are a lover of a real tree and a traditionalist like me, keeping it up till twelfth night (that’s Wednesday, 5 January) is just asking for a carpet full of pine needles!

Well, it would, but I’ve got a top tip to keep your tree alive for longer.

Firstly select a good tree, the most popular seems to be a Nordmann Fir, but with so much choice, just ask your helpful retailer.

The secret is cutting an inch (3cm) from the bottom just before putting it in a tree-holder that can hold lots of water. Even if it is freshly cut, it only takes hours for sap to start healing itself.

A tree can drink 2-3 pints of water a day! So don’t let it dry out, or it will seal up again and not be able to drink – even if you top it up. Try to keep a consistent temperature, away from radiators and other heat sources.

So my recommendation for the ultimate joy and contentment at Christmas is don’t just do it all in one go. Have three decorating sessions – that’s three happy hormone boosts! First, get your outside decorations up as early as you like (straight after bonfire night in my case). Then go mad this weekend (26-28 November) with all your indoor decorations. Finally, save putting your real tree up until at least 1 December.

So let’s get decorating and get the happy hormones running and enjoy a cheeky snowball with loved ones this year.

By Emma - lover of history, art and adventure

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