Decorating Early for the Holidays and Holiday Spirit in Quarantine
December 7, 2020
The holiday season looks very different this year. Normally at this time of year, the fall decorations would just be put away within a week of Thanksgiving while families rush to introduce the Christmas season. We pass the time by using all of our self-restraint to save Christmas music until the first of December. Our pumpkin spice lattes are swiftly replaced with peppermint bark and our knitted sweaters with winter coats. But 2020 has been far from normal.
So much more comes with this holiday season than Christmas trees and caroling. The pandemic, being away from our families, the time change, and seasonal depression are all playing a role in this time of year. These factors are drastically changing how people celebrate the holidays, and more specifically, how and when they decorate.
Whether it be because of a new abundance of time that we normally wouldn’t have had without the pandemic or because it’s just a way to distract ourselves from the outside world, people are surrounding themselves with much more holiday decor than usual. Understandably, it’s hard to be excited about the holidays this time around, but the influx of early holiday decorating gives a new meaning and urgency to finding your ‘holiday spirit.’
Seasonal affective disorder (“SAD”), or seasonal depression is a type of depression that correlates with a change in seasons. SAD is more common within the winter months because of the lack of sunlight and is commonly brushed off as the winter blues. According to Martin Klein, a Connecticut-based clinical psychologist in private practice who specializes in the treatment of SAD, studies have shown that around 80 percent of all Americans are dealing with some form of depression or stress since the pandemic began, causing the country’s depression rates to triple.
With an increasing number of people decorating early for the holidays, seasonal depression is being combated in a less traditional sense and more decorative one. A great example of this is Jessica Potter (class of 2023), who began putting her Christmas decorations up as early as November 1st.
“We couldn’t wait to get our Christmas decorations up,” Potter explained. “We really wanted to start the season early because we felt like the house needed a little joy after everything that I had ensued throughout the pandemic.”
For Potter, the holidays have always been a time for joy, faith, and hope. “Christmas lights dangle from our front porch, and our tree is fully decorated, it serves as a reminder of how fortunate people are to be together as a family, to have a roof over our heads and food on our plates.”
This sense of therapy and solace that Potter received from decorating her house early doesn’t seem to be uncommon in the scientific world.
“Have you ever listened to an old song and found how you were flooded with strong feelings? You often remember when you first heard that music and re-experience the emotions associated with those experiences. This is a common experience and one often discussed in psychotherapy,” says Dr. Cheryl Paradis, a Psychology professor at Marymount Manhattan College.
“When a person explores these memories in treatment, they may learn a great deal about themselves which is important in order to make positive changes.”
During stressful times people reminisce about fond memories, they have with loved ones, helping people remember those connections and continue to foster those very connections. During COVID-19, remembering those memories and traditions associated with the holidays will help those who cannot physically be with their loved ones. Participating in this tradition helps to be together with their loved ones emotionally even if cannot see them.
“I do believe that many people will decorate more than before as a means of connecting with positive, healing memories and feelings,” Dr. Paradis concluded. “I would not be surprised if many people send out holiday cards this year, even if they never did before.”
Laurel Syvertsen, a single working mom of five kids, has always been one to decorate for the holidays. Despite everything that has gone on this past year, COVID hasn’t stopped her Christmas spirit it’s encouraged her to do more.
“I have always been a fanatic for the holidays, always causing my family and me to decorate early for the holidays,” Syvertsen said.
This year with the chaos looming outside it gave, Laurel Syvertsen had even more time on her hands to go all out even more than she has in the past few years. “I have seen more and more decorations than average even those who do not decorate for Christmas have because in this time it is a way to feel closer to loved ones in time when that is not possible.”
But families aren’t the only ones getting a head start on the season’s greetings; many businesses are doing similar things.
It isn’t unusual for you to just smell and see the difference of the season in the air with all the new holiday flavors Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts brings out for the holidays and all the feel-good holiday movies Netflix puts out. Like the famous peppermint mocha to the gingerbread cookie coffee flavors or seeing those corny but warm holiday movies like Jingle Jangle. In many years there is a set time when the transition of holiday festivities moves in whether it is drinks or movies, they come out closer to the holidays.
In light of COVID-19 and the nation facing a pandemic, the holiday cheer has been coming out earlier than it did last year. Netflix started putting out holiday movies as early as November 1st and releasing one or two every week into December last year. In 2020, Netflix put out holiday movies as early as October 28 and much earlier because giving the audience something to look forward to with everyone still being alone in these hard times. Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts started putting out their drinks a couple of days earlier than last year. This all works to give people that little extra holiday magic they need to get through holidays in these unpredictable times.
This year is different for everyone. No matter what your circumstance is, it would be unfair to ignore how difficult this year has been. Decorating early might be elating for some or a coping mechanism for another, but what matters is that we’re getting through it. So listen to that Christmas song a little early, put up as many decorations as you want, zoom with your family, and end this holiday season on a good note. And if none of this sounds like you and you’re just a scrooge about the holidays, that’s completely fair too. This year has certainly been a long one, but if there’s one thing I know that will ease your mind, it’s that at least 2020 is almost over.