Dec 8, 2009

Women and Christmas decorating: it’s in our blood

by Claire Riss

As soon as fall sets in and there is even a hint of cold weather, women around the world begin their Christmas planning. It is unexplainable that a drop in the temperature could stir the holiday spirit within us. But when it does, there is no stopping it.

It begins somewhere in October. For the women in my family, we usually start discussing the upcoming holiday’s theme during fall break. How should we decorate the tree? Do we want a spruce, pine or fir? Do we want a new Christmas tree theme or should we revamp an old one? Red and green or silver and gold? Typically, no one can come to an agreement and the majority rules. Inevitably, someone is left unhappy, dreaming of the day when she will have her own household and complete decorating control.

As for the men in my family, my dad and brother have no say when it comes to Christmas decorating. We have even revoked their manly right of bringing the tree home for fear that they will pick a less-than-perfect tree. We would rather brave the cold and pull a Griswold family-type expedition.

Most men do not have a place in the delicate arena of decorating. We women have our routine down perfectly and we would rather not have anyone get in our way. We bring down the 42 boxes from the storage closet, unload for an hour, set up for two hours and then revel in genuine amazement that, once again, we have created another Christmas miracle right in our own living room.

What about women and dorm rooms? It is a welcome challenge, really. I think female dorms would be sparkling with lights in October if it were not for the rules prohibiting any Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. In fact, besides preserving the Thanksgiving holiday and reducing fire hazards, females are probably one of the main reasons the rule was created.

Everyone — male and female — is altered around Christmas. Women happen to express it through decorating. I mean, even Martha Stewart, the iron maven of all things decoration, abandons her formality in the name of Christmas.

According to Stewart, “It’s perfectly OK to swap in a mismatched fork or spoon,” for Christmas dinner settings.

But the question arises, why do women love Christmas decorating so much? Setting up the tree, hanging up lights — hours of strategizing and labor. It is not only decorating either. There is cooking, cleaning and various types of hosting. And do not forget the Christmas presents. We have to buy, wrap and haul them. On the whole, it is a stressful process, yet we delight in it.

So what is it? Why do we put ourselves through so much trouble for something that only lasts a couple of weeks out of the entire year? The answer is: we don’t know. We just don’t know. It could be that internal search for beauty and control in our surroundings, or possibly a hormone in our bodies that calls for twinkling lights and the smell of pine. But those theories are inconclusive at best.

We are not hurting anyone, so my conclusion is this: back off and let us decorate. Our husbands, boyfriends and brothers may feel like they have lost us for a month or so, but we will be fine once February rolls around. Fortunately for them, Christmas only comes once a year.

Contact Claire Riss at

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