Merry November: They don't wait to put up the Christmas decor

By Tim Engle

McClatchy Newspapers

Published: Saturday, Nov. 27 2010 11:00 a.m. MST

Shawn Burton, of Lee's Summit, Missouri, loves Christmas and loves to get a head start on decorating his home early, usually by November 1, 2010. Burton has three Christmas trees in his living room and a total of 18 trees, most of them with themed ornaments, spread through the main level and basement.

David Eulitt, The Kansas City Star

Enlarge photo»

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Yes, Shawn Burton realizes that plenty of people give Christmas decorating little thought until sometime after their big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day.

He is not one of those people. By Turkey Day, Burton's indoor Christmas stuff — including 19 trees glowing throughout his Lee's Summit, Mo., home — will have been up more than two weeks. And he'll be itching to flip the switch on his outdoor display.

Meanwhile, across town in Leawood, Kan., Betsy Collins is on about the same schedule. The holiday party she's hosting for her book club in early December? Her house is ready.

Her decorating was pretty much wrapped up last Tuesday, when a warm, 70-something breeze made it feel more like opening day for the Royals than a couple of weeks before the lighting of the Country Club Plaza.

The other night, the dad of one of her sons' friends "walked in and went, 'Ahhhh ... Christmas,'" she reports. He looked a bit stunned.

"Everybody thinks I'm crazy, and I probably am," Collins says. "People hate hearing Christmas carols on the radio (so early), and here I am with two wreaths on my door." Not to mention three big, beautiful Christmas trees inside, a garland-covered banister and assorted other festive adornments.

But ...

"I'd rather get it done early and be able to relax," she says.

There've always been some folks so gung ho-ho-ho about Christmas, they can hardly wait for the last trick-or-treater to depart before hauling the tree out of the basement. Their ranks may be growing, too.

"I think it is becoming more acceptable to decorate early for the holidays," says Jan Cummings, chairwoman of the interior design department at Johnson County Community College.

Also, "over probably the last 10 to 15 years, people have really started doing much more than a tree. It's not just the tree and mantel anymore."

Who or what gets the credit/blame for earlier-than-ever Christmas? For one thing, "good old-fashioned retailing," Cummings says. Some stores were pushing holiday trimmings in mid-September.

"For me, and this is strictly personal, not professional, we usually use Thanksgiving weekend as a starting point (for decorating)," Cummings says. "However, I happen to know several people who (last) week had Christmas decorations going up" — indoors and out.

On Nov. 8, Dana Bamvakais of Odessa, Mo., was done with holiday bling "except for one of my bathrooms." Most of it was wrapped up by the third week of October.

Inside her home are trees aplenty. Her 15-year-old daughter's room has a snowman tree topped with top hat. Bamvakais' own bedroom boasts a 7-foot tree, with an upside-down one in an adjacent sitting room.

Christmas was a big deal when she was growing up, "very happy times in my household." And her mom loved decorating.

Beyond that, Bamvakais says, Christmas and all its accoutrements are a celebration of her faith, the birth of Jesus Christ.

Tina Hernandez and her cousin Yolanda Ortiz-Burt, both of Lee's Summit, turn holiday decorating into a contest. Who will get done first? Usually it's Ortiz-Burt, a "phenomenal decorator."

Hernandez attributes her love for all things Christmas — and her zeal for doing it early — to her grandmother. "It was always such a fun tradition to watch her and her niece try to beat each other."

This year, however, Hernandez has fallen behind. She was planning a birthday party for her daughter last week, and she didn't want to be in the middle of holiday decorating at the same time.

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