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Christmas Decor Etiquette in Kingston

Christmas Lights before Remembrance DayOn October 31st, we were the only house on our block with a jack-o-lantern on display, and despite the lack of Halloween spirit amongst our neighbours, this year we set a new record for trick or treaters.  The next day our pumpkin went straight into our composter, and up went our miniature festive tree, decked out in a few strands of LED lights. Last year I waited far too late to put up our Christmas lights, and I was forced to endure the snow and cold when I finally got my decorating act together. While I’ve succeeded in not making the same mistake twice, according to some, I’ve made an all new mistake by putting our Christmas decorations up before Remembrance Day.  Even though I purchased and proudly wore a poppy from November 1st to the 11th, and attended two ceremonies on Remembrance Day, the fact that I’ve adorned a planter with a little bit of Christmas cheer makes me somehow unappreciative of the sacrifices of soldiers?  I think not.  Accordingly this week’s poll asks:

Should Christmas lights be switched on before Remembrance Day?

  • No, because it's too early. (61%, 66 Votes)
  • Sure. It's not a rude gesture. (27%, 29 Votes)
  • No, it's disrespectful. (11%, 12 Votes)
  • Something Else Entirely. (1%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 108

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While my preemptive decorating might make it seem as though I’m already decking the halls with boughs of holly,  humming Christmas carols non-stop, and dipping into the spiked eggnog, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I honestly can’t stand all the stores, malls and offices that have already been Christmas-ified.  Starbucks is a great example, as some of their stores have already been festively decorated, while they rolled out their red and white holiday cups before Remembrance Day.  I share the sense that Christmas is pushed out of stores earlier and earlier each year, but my three strings of twinkly lights do not hinder the respect I have for fallen soldiers and veterans.  Call me Clark Griswold, but don’t mistake my ambition as being unpatriotic or immoral.  Such comments can be saved for those not wearing a poppy, however some would go so far as to argue that you don’t need to wear a poppy to show your support.  I would love to get your perspective on the no Christmas lights before Remembrance Day rule, and the commercialization of the holiday season in general.  Please drop off your comments below.

Special thanks to Jenny Spadafora for today’s photo.

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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

14 thoughts on “Christmas Decor Etiquette in Kingston

  • November 15, 2010 at 7:46 am
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    Don't feel so bad Harvey. I work nights and therefore walk home every night. I have noticed that for a couple of weeks now that more and more people have been putting up their Christmas lights. Way more, I imagine, than you did, by the sounds of it.

    Personally I don't see how putting up your Christmas lights before Remembrance Day is supposed to be a big insult to Veterans. As long as we remember them and show them our respect in wearing the poppy and attending the ceremonies, I think they will forgive us putting up lights during a early warm spell.

    As for the whole commercialization of Christmas…I think that stores, especially these days, are trying to get a jump on Christmas sales. Its not going to change. I say grin, bear it, enjoy the early Christmas prices and get your shopping done extra early so you can avoid the mall crowds for an entire two months lol.

  • November 15, 2010 at 8:03 am
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    An appropriate time to put up Christmas lights is December 1st. An appropriate time for Christmas carols, store decorations, and Starbuck's "festive cups" is December 1st. I love Christmas, which is exactly why I hate seeing it smeared across two full months of commercials, cloying versions of beautiful songs, and over-the-top decorating. It isn't necessary to immediately begin celebrating the next holiday the day after the last one. Tell your favourite stores to back off, and let's have a REAL Christmas season (and an appropriate Remembrance Day).

    (Fun fact: the "Twelve Days of Christmas" START, not end, on Christmas Day.)

    • November 15, 2010 at 10:17 am
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      What about residential lights that are put up, but not turned on until the 1st of December? Would that be acceptable. Again, going back to my experience last year, messing around with Christmas lights in the cold is not my definition of a fun time. Even if there's a cup of hot chocolate served afterwords.

      • November 15, 2010 at 12:59 pm
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        Up but not on is perfectly fine. I don't find it's the "up" weather that's usually uncooperative, it's the "down" weather in January!

    • November 6, 2012 at 2:53 pm
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      anyone can put up thier lighta anytime, its not disrespectful nor is it rude, its just a personal preference that some ppl have no buisness saying anything at all! I light up dec 01st or last week of november. Stop being a hater! decorate when you want and dont let anyone ruin your own festivness!

  • November 15, 2010 at 11:15 am
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    1st of December at the earliest. At least Canada doesn't (yet) seem to be as bad as the UK where stores start going Xmas from around the end of September. Probably because there's Thanksgiving in between here, which at least forms a barrier to the colonization of the rest of the year by Christmas!

    I am not sure what Remembrance Day has to do with anything at all. It's a completely different kind of event. I know there's a growing nationalistic militarism in Canada which seems to think that Remembrance Day should be a celebration of 'our' military and that anything that seems to be different to this is wrong, but that's not what the day should be about anyway. It's a day to quietly remember the dead in wars – all of them, whether they were Canadian or from any other nation. It's a day which is a pause for thought from whatever else is going on, whatever that is.

  • November 15, 2010 at 11:43 am
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    I don't see lights as disrespectful to veterans but I do have to agree with Stephen. The way the stores and television commercials jump on the holiday really cheapens it. This need to decorate so early only adds to the crazy speed at which we live our lives. Let's slow down and enjoy the few coloured leaves that remain and the mild days we're still getting surprised with. Why do we need to be in such a hurry?

  • November 15, 2010 at 12:13 pm
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    My family tradition was always to wait until ADVENT started before doing any decoration (this year its November 28th, still almost a month of deco time, pretty reasonable)
    Im a HUGE advocate for waiting until after Novemebr 11th to start decorating. I dont think people who do choose to decorate before are all horrible people. The fact its even an issue considering at that time Christmas is still freaking almost 2 months away kind of baffles me. I guess for me its kind of a respect thing, I mean you wouldn't hand out invites for a wedding in May at a funeral in January… Recognize the day, its a day of mourning, remembrance and respect, we give them one day a year they should have it.
    My bitterness in this matter does come from years past working in a retail environment. I think I worked remembrance day 4 years in a row, and each year as our store recognized the 2 minutes, I would watch as those special holiday kiosks in the hall would continue business as usual if I felt disgusted at the disrespect, imagine what our men and women in unform would be feeling….. so yeah it really bothers me when a holiday that is still so far away begins to overshadow the trememdous sacrifices made by men and women past, present and future… and to even further fuel the frustration its not even the holiday doing the overshadowing, its the consumerism behind it, how many people actually celebrate 'Christmas' in its true intention?

    Also doesn't anyone else fine that by getting Christmasy so early by the time the actualy holiday gets here you just want it to be over?

    Side note: I dont see anything wrong with hanging lights early but waiting to turn them on so that you can get them up before the bad weather kicks in.

  • November 15, 2010 at 12:26 pm
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    I think it is acceptable to put up your lights whenever you want to (we put ours up in the fall, too, Harvey, to avoid the -30 degree weather in late November), but I think you should wait to turn them on until sometime after December 1st.

    I agree that in this overly commercialized world, we need to stop thinking about what holiday is next and just enjoy some down time once and a while. I hated that my November 1st trip to the grocery store included holiday music being blasted through the store's sound system, and red and green decorations everywhere.

    As for the Remembrance Day issue – well, I agree with Flying_Monkey – it's a completely different kind of event. I don't think putting up strands of lights is offensive in that regard.

  • November 15, 2010 at 2:54 pm
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    I have to agree with a lot of people here. Putting up your lights while the weather is nicer is fine, but my family only decorates and turns on our lights around December 1st or the start of advent.
    I understand why retail stores want to capitalize on the xmas shopping season, but personally I feel the xmas season is extended much too far. If I'm still enjoying the warm fall days, or still writing midterms and not finals, then it's too early.

  • November 15, 2010 at 5:41 pm
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    I don't like to see the lights on any longer than they need to me – to me they speak to an extravagance and waste of electricity. Although I am wholeheartedly a hypocrite because I put up lights and a tree and all that.

    As for when it's appropriate? I think if you asked a veteran or a soldier who died in a conflict to protect the freedoms of our nation or any other nation they would remind us that they fought for *all* freedoms, including the freedom to choose on your own when you can put up and turn on Christmas lights.

    I would rather not see them until two weeks before Christmas, but that's just my opinion. It's up to each person themselves to choose when they turn on their lights. What bothers me more, I think, is the people who just don't take them down – I have three neighbours (on a street with less than 20 houses) who have lights that are going on three Christmases without having been taken down.

  • December 1, 2010 at 1:42 pm
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    An interesting thread has begun on my facebook regarding not when we should decorate, but how. There has been a disconcerting number of those ugly, gigantic, energy draining blow up santas and snowmen and, ahem, polar bears (you all know what I'm talking about). Having some taste with decor could make all the difference about how we feel about the timing of it all.

  • December 1, 2010 at 3:18 pm
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    Personally, I don't understand how the people who do the massively over the top light shows can afford it. Are these the same people who complain about the costs of Ontario's clean energy plans? ;-)

  • November 1, 2014 at 12:12 pm
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    Our family waits until advent. That said, I don’t feel like soldiers make these sacrifices so we can live in a drawn out state of mourning. If twinkling Christmas lights bring you joy, then you’d be honouring those soldiers by enjoying the happiness they fought and died for you to have. Should we pause and reflect in our gratitude for their sacrifice? Absolutely. This is why we have Remembrance Day, to break from our daily bustle to honour and give thanks to the brave people that gave, and still give, so much for us. Not so people can dictate how we should feel and when it’s appropriate to be happy and joyous in celebration of our faith.

    Do not stand at my grave and weep

    I am not there; I do not sleep.

    I am a thousand winds that blow,

    I am the diamond glints on snow,

    I am the sun on ripened grain,

    I am the gentle autumn rain.

    When you awaken in the morning’s hush

    I am the swift uplifting rush

    Of quiet birds in circled flight.

    I am the soft stars that shine at night.

    Do not stand at my grave and cry,

    I am not there; I did not die.

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