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Fact/Fiction: Can putting Christmas decorations up early make you happier?

Old news, truthfully retold. This week we ask if it really is to early to deck the halls or if we should be getting the Christmas tree, tinsel and baubles up now

How it was told

It barely seems a minute since temperature records were being smashed in the summer but Christmas isn’t that far away.

It’s probably a little too soon to fetch the baubles, tinsel and tree from the loft however.

Not so, suggests a slew of online news stories published last week. In fact, they insist that hanging up decorations early could make you merry.

The Daily Mirror’s “Putting Christmas decorations up early can make you happier, psychologist says” is just one of a series of virtually identical stories run by most major UK national news sites, receiving plenty of coverage abroad too.

“Putting up Christmas decorations EARLY makes you happier because it triggers childhood memories, claims psychologist” was the Mail Online’s effort while the Daily Express took the unusual approach of packing quotes from the other stories in with Melania Trump’s Christmas plans. “Melania Trump: FLOTUS mocked after revealing festive White House plans – in September” was the headline they opted for.

But it wasn’t just last week when these stories were published – in fact, identical stories that quoted the same experts, psychoanalyst Steve McKeown and psychotherapist Amy Morin, also appeared in November 2017.

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Back then, the story originated on the Unilad website (where all last week’s articles linked back to) before being published in The Independent, Huffington Post, Metro and others.

But is there any evidence that it’s true?

Facts. Checked

It might seem shocking but it seems like the Christmas decorations academic field is not a burgeoning one. There is very little academic study on the subject.

That is probably demonstrated by the research that is featured in the stories. “Inferences about homeowners’ sociability: Impact of Christmas decorations and other cues” was published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology in December 1989.

It has little to do with when Christmas decorations are put up – in fact, it’s a US study that relates to how decorations were a cue to “communicate friendliness and cohesiveness to neighbours”.

As well as being three decades old, the study is also the first result when you type the words “Christmas decorations” into the Google Scholar search engine.

YouGov’s more recent research from 2016 suggested that December was the earliest month that decorations should be put up – 75 per cent of the Brits quizzed opted for that in a survey on the subject.

As for the quotes from the experts, there is little to suggest that seeing reminders of Christmas times gone by wouldn’t boost your mood – if you have happy memories of Christmas, that is.

The articles all assume that Christmas is a happy time but that isn’t the case for everyone – take, for example, a study from 2004, published in the

Circulation journal, which discusses how the emotional stress of holidays – dubbed the “Merry Christmas Coronary” in the study – may be behind cardiac deaths in Los Angeles.

For many living on the breadline, Christmas can be a time that is fraught  – the Money Advice Trust and YouGov reckon that one in 10 Brits worries and feels stressed about money in the lead up to Christmas. Having lights and baubles up as a daily reminder in the months ahead is hardly going to help matters.

And putting up Christmas decorations in September may well raise a few eyebrows on your street too – perhaps a few funny looks from the neighbours won’t do much to boost your mood.

If there is a mental health boost from sticking up Christmas decorations early, it will take more than this set of regurgitated news stories – and a bit more studying – to prove it.

Image: Miles Cole

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