I Start Celebrating Christmas On November 1, And You Can't Take My Joy

by Karen Johnson
Originally Published: 
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Truth time. For most of the year, I’m not really (read: not at all) a fan of Mariah Carey or Justin Bieber. And it would be odd to hear me Pandora-search Boys II Men or Michael Buble. They’re fine, just not really my jam. That is until the Halloween hangover passes and November 1 hits. Then everything changes and I’m like—boom!—rocking to “Under the Mistletoe” by the Biebs in my kitchen.

Because for me, Christmas season starts as soon as the witch costumes are put away. As soon as it gets dark at 5:00. As soon as the first snowflake falls (which, in Wisconsin, could actually be in October if we’re being honest).

On November 1, my house turns green and red. Snowmen begin to appear on the mantle, and although we don’t get our real tree until after Thanksgiving, holly branches and wreaths start making their way to doorways and windows. Movies like The Grinch or Elf monopolize Netflix and Prime, and my kids busily start writing out their wish lists.

You might even find me—a loyal Amazon account holder who pretty much loathes shopping—in a real store. Or even a mall. Suddenly, when the calendar flips to November, I want to be where the people are. I want to soak in the hustle and bustle and holiday music and long lines. I might even break out of my east coast anti-social ways and make small talk with other shoppers and cashiers or bop my head to Jingle Bells while perusing the racks at Old Navy. The truth is, Christmas time brings me immense joy and I stretch it out as long as I can.

And I’m not even a tiny bit sorry if you’re annoyed by that.

Because here’s the deal. Starting Christmas celebrations early doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy Halloween and Thanksgiving and honor Remembrance Day. We do. My kids will eat candy until they nearly puke on October 31 and we will proudly fly our flag and thank our veterans on November 11.

And come Thanksgiving we will have football on all day, eat as much turkey and gravy and pie as we can squeeze into our bellies, change into stretchy pants, then squeeze in some more, and talk about why we’re thankful. (It’s just that I may already have candy canes and Santa figurines here and there, alongside our pumpkins.)

So yeah, I start enjoying the holiday season as soon as I possibly can. Here’s why.

1. It’s a shit-ton of work.

Not only is there the decorating and unwrapping of 892 irreplaceable tiny ornaments that my kids have made… and shopping for all the nieces and nephews and teachers and don’t forget the mail carrier. But then, how about kids’ parties at school and cleaning and cooking if you’re hosting? And, oh crap the tree fell over and half the ornaments are broken…

As much as I love this time of year, and I do with my whole heart, it’s stressful and exhausting. By the day after Christmas, I am always sick. Always. If not sooner. I have lists upon lists upon lists and often lie in bed at night wondering what or whom I’m forgetting. When I imagine trying to cram all of that into a 2-week period, or even less, my head hurts. So hard pass on that. I got too much shit to do to procrastinate.

2. The holiday season flies by and seems too short.

It’s because of the busyness and stress of #1 that Christmas time seems to pass by in a blink. And that’s not okay with me. Christmas mornings were one of my favorite childhood memories and I want to capture that magic with my kids. But, since they are kids, they tear open everything in about 11 minutes and then my husband and I look at each other like, well, that’s done. I can’t bear the thought of Christmas only being that one day with how fast it all goes.

So starting in November, we string up some lights. And as our neighbors do the same, we drive around and check them out. We visit holiday displays and events in and around our town throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas. We sponsor a family who cannot afford to buy a holiday meal and gifts, we send out holiday cards, and we make ornaments and homemade presents to give to those we love.

All of that takes time, but that’s what I like about it. Doing Christmas this way means it’s bigger than December 25. It’s bigger than Santa. It’s about family and memories and hot chocolate and hand-made cards for our teachers to say thank you. It’s about seeing the happiness on someone else’s face when you hand them a special gift and making sure that those in need feel that same joy.

So if I get started on my list earlier than you do, that’s okay.

3. Christmas makes me a nostalgic, emotional mess, and I need to soak that in.

I’m pretty sure—no, I’m positive—that one of the reasons I love the holiday season so much is because of my mom. My parents didn’t have a lot of money, but Christmas was always big in our house. My mom lived for it, shopping year-round to get the best deals. Coupons, ads, black Friday shopping—she did whatever she had to do to ensure my sister and I had those big saucer-eyes and squeals of delight when we saw what Santa brought us. I know they probably couldn’t afford the Barbie Dream Store or the matching Cabbage Patch Dolls, but somehow they made it work. And it wasn’t just shopping that showed how much she lived for December 25. She, like me, began the festivities pretty early with her holiday decor.

So yeah, channeling my inner love for Christmas makes me feel a bit closer to my mother since I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like, and since I’m a busy mom myself now, watching for sales and fighting the crowds, so I can score the Hatchimal my daughter covets.

4. The outside matches the inside.

I live in a tundra known as Wisconsin where the groundhog doesn’t say “6 more weeks of winter!” on February 2. He says “6 more months!” So, extended and excessive holiday cheer warms my freezing ass bones when I’m carting my kids to hockey practice in -15 degree weather.

If you live somewhere where the kids don’t wear snow pants outside for recess for three straight months, then you can shut your trap and let me have this.

5. It makes me happy. The end.

I’m at the point in my life where unless I could potentially hurt someone else, I’m just going to do what makes me happy. And that list includes: watching Fixer Upper, eating chips, drinking dark beer, and listening to Christmas music for (at least) two straight months. Blasting Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” in my kitchen the first week of November while making a gingerbread house with my kids impacts your fall experience in zero ways. So you worry about yourself, and I’ll do the same.

And it turns out, I’m not alone. According to an article to, psychologist Deborah Serani says that Christmas decorating “spikes dopamine, a feel-good hormone.” It really is good for the soul—studies prove it.

So if you fight the winter blues, you might want to try dragging those stockings out a few weeks earlier and switching to the holiday station on Pandora. And if you want to decorate cookies or sip some spiked eggnog while the kids make paper snowflakes, you’re welcome at my house as soon as the calendar flips to November.

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