We're Calling BS: Putting Your Holiday Decorations up Earlier Does Not Necessarily Make You Happier

holiday decorating
credit: Twenty20

You've heard it on the news, you've read it online: Decorating for the holidays early scientifically makes you happier. We love getting caught up in a frenzy of decorating as much as the next person, so we were quick to believe this fact of "science" ... until we actually looked into it. So sad! There isn't much proof.

You surely don't need us to tell you this, but it's unwise to blindly believe every headline that you read or hear. These articles and newscasts all cite the same one or two sources: A 1989 study on inferences about homeowners' sociability and quotes to Unilad by psychoanalyst Steve McKeown (although we were unable to confirm his education background) and social worker Amy Morin.

McKeown doesn't list any education information on his personal website or LinkedIn, so we can't confirm his qualifications, but Morin's comments do seem to be legitimate. It's just that the concept of taking one expert's opinion and spinning it into "science says decorating for Christmas early makes you happier" doesn't hold up.

The study many cite is legitimate, too — but in no way states that putting holiday decorations up earlier makes you happier. The study, which was published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, is actually about your neighbors' perception of you if you decorate for the holidays. It concludes that neighbors take Christmas decorations as "a cue that the residents [of the home] were friendly and cohesive." What does this have to do with 1. decorating early and 2. your happiness? There's an additional study required to generate any legitimate conclusions about happiness or timing here. Also, allow us to state the obvious: The way people feel about the world is most likely different in 2018 than in 1989.

So, it may well be true that putting holiday decorations up earlier makes you happier. But we're going to need a whole lot more evidence to believe it.