Ask Design Mom: Putting Christmas Away

January 3, 2011

Question:
Dear Gabrielle, how long do you let your Christmas decorations stay up? Just curious. — Janice

christmas ornaments

Answer:
Fun question, Janice! I don’t have a hard and fast rule, but if possible, I do like to have everything put away before the kids start back to school. It makes me feel like we’re getting a fresh start. This year, I packed up everything on Saturday (New Year’s Day). Packing happened lazily in the morning, then we shifted into a celebratory mode and went to the King Tut exhibit in the afternoon.

I took extra special care putting things away this year because they need to stay neat and secure while they live in storage for the next couple of years. Although I did set aside a few of our Christmas Essentials (some books, a handful of decorations) that we’ll pack up and bring to France — to help us feel less homesick next December. But the kids were shocked to hear we wouldn’t be bringing any ornaments. I’m hoping to come up with something cool we can make for ornaments while we’re in France — and then surprise them with the awesomeness. : )

christmas ornaments

Last to leave the house was our tree. It did a great job staying fresh and green this year — hooray! I followed Jordan’s pro-tip and stopped at True Value to pick up a $1 plastic drop cloth. Very helpful.

What about you? Do you put away holiday decorations right away? Or do you let them linger through January?

P.S. — I took these images of our ornaments sitting on the sofa as they came off the tree. So many great memories attached to each of these! Made me happy.

christmas ornaments

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{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tanie January 3, 2011 at 1:45 pm

I’m usually pretty lazy about it and leave the tree and decorations up almost until my birthday in February, but my husband bought a new desk yesterday that had to go where the Christmas tree was, so down everything came! It’s nice to have it done already- undecorating is one of my least favorite activities.

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2 Design Mom January 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Congrats on the new desk, Tanie. How exciting!

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3 Kristin January 3, 2011 at 1:50 pm

I typically wait until the kids ARE back in school. That way I can make my organized mess without their help making it disorganized. I always hope to have it put away before they get home, but that never happens. It’s going back into bins as we speak.

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4 Design Mom January 3, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Crossing my fingers your bin-filling is going swimmingly. : )

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5 Kristin January 4, 2011 at 7:03 pm

It was all away AND in the attic before my husband got home from work!! That should have been my cue to stop shopping the holiday clearance sales, but who can pass up 75% off? Time to find another bin.

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6 Shannon Best January 3, 2011 at 1:52 pm

We took our tree down on Sunday. It’s so sad in here now. But I just muster through it and get it done. Even my four year old twins were teary eyed. We kissed the ornaments and let them help us in the process. I think that helps. And dad took down the outside lights.
I took photos of what was in each box, printed it out and taped it to the box. OCD? Yes.
Happy New year DM!
-Shannon in Austin

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7 Design Mom January 3, 2011 at 2:02 pm

It’s true! It always feels a little sad when the tree is gone.

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8 Harriet January 3, 2011 at 1:53 pm

We used to always leave our Christmas decorations up until we had all started back at school, it was so nice to come home to twinkly lights in the dark and drizzly January days Britain has.
Now, even though we’ve all left home or are away studying our Christmas decorations stay around till mid January! It is always a bittersweet day when you return to an un-Christmassed house, knowing that they will be back and you can unpack them and smell all the Christmassy smells again, but first comes the promise of Spring, Summer and Autumn.

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9 Design Mom January 3, 2011 at 2:03 pm

You’re right, Harriet. Twinkly light are the perfect remedy for dark and drizzly.

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10 dunski January 3, 2011 at 1:54 pm

We put it all away on or by january 6th, the day of the three kings. Seems to be a tradition around here.
This year we had an advent calender story that went with windowstickers.. can’t wait to take them down, the window is sticky and gross of all the manoevers the boys did with the figures and when the sun shines through…uhm..it’s pretty UNpretty then. But I guess, the boys see it aLOT diffrent. They love the story.
Will you take a “family”-nativity with you. I feel like the things they’ve seen for years..even if it’s just that one paper angel is what makes the difference to them.

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11 Design Mom January 3, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Oh. I like the January 6th tradition. Very cool!

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12 desiree January 3, 2011 at 2:31 pm

We keep ours up for the 12 days of Christmas – we put it up on the 24th and take it down after the 6th. On the 6th we dress up one last time in our holiday clothes and have our galette and the kids hide under the table – it is one of the best French holiday traditions! http://chocolateandzucchini.com/archives/2005/01/galette_des_rois.php

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13 leslie w. January 3, 2011 at 5:17 pm

yeah, we wait till epiphany, too. in the catholic church the christmas season lasts from christmas eve till epiphany, so it somehow seems wrong to take it down before that. plus it’s nice to enjoy it a bit longer. :)

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14 Sherry January 3, 2011 at 1:59 pm

I pack up everything slowly after Christmas…taking a few days to make sure I organize it neatly. Leaving my tree to do once the kids go back to school. That way I can take my time without interruption. Don’t do anything on New Years day… usually I’m recuperating from a big shindig :)

I do find that my decorations are changing. When the kids were little we did a train, 2 trees, a huge snow village and nativity scenes everywhere. Now that they are teens I like things simpler. A few things here and there…fresh flowers in every room, simple garland (no more big bows everywhere). Interesting how that happens.

Your ornaments are beautiful. And knowing you, I bet some were handmade by you and your kiddos.

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15 dunski January 3, 2011 at 1:59 pm

BEing curious I just checked out a normandy christmas market and 2010 they offered a workshop to do your own tree”balls” at the market in Caen… You will have a lovely french style christmas!

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16 KarinS January 3, 2011 at 2:05 pm

We take our stuff down on/around Old Christmas Day – which is the 6th of January. We’ll have a nice easy dinner and then pack everything away. We just moved into our house so it’ll look especially empty until I get my act together and decorate for real. ;) Happy New Year to you!

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17 Jessica Herberger January 3, 2011 at 2:06 pm

A friend of ours left her decorations up until her husband, serving oversees, came home. She kept switching the ornaments on her tree to reflect the current holiday-she went through hearts, four leaf clovers, etc and finally he came home when there were flags all over the tree for the Fourth of July!

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18 Kayla January 3, 2011 at 2:15 pm

FINALLY did it just today. And only because my baby’s third birthday is tomorrow and we are having people over and I didn’t want them judging me over the huge fire hazard in the middle of our living room. It’s really hard to make myself pack up our Christmas decorations…I’m just not ready for the season to end!

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19 Elizabeth January 3, 2011 at 2:22 pm

I think our tradition has become to leave it up until the night before our town trash collection picks them up (which this year happens to be Jan 8th). I’d leave it up longer becaue I LOVE Christmas but then we’d be stuck trying to find a place to dump it ourselves.

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20 Alicia W. January 3, 2011 at 2:30 pm

I am a New Year’s Day un-decorator. It’s usually a relaxed and easy day to do it. Our tree is usually pretty crispy by then, too. One thing I love about taking my tree down is how much light there is in my front room now that there isn’t a tree blocking the windows. Sunlight sure helps battle the mid-winter blahs!

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21 kiera January 3, 2011 at 2:32 pm

I usually wait until the Epiphany- the feast of the Three Wise Men (we give gifts on that day, too! Whammy!)

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22 kiera January 3, 2011 at 2:33 pm

The date is January 7th, btw

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23 nikki January 3, 2011 at 2:45 pm

I always take mine down on New Years Eve. I tend to think of it like I’m packing away the last of the old year for a fresh start in the new year. Silly, I know. Also helps though that we have artificial trees (4 to be exact – our main one, one in each child’s bedroom and our loving tree trunk/Charlie Brown style from our pre-marriage years in the apartment) I digress :) I have to say though, I got a little sad when you said you had to pack away your decorations for “years”…plural. That must have been a hard task although I’m positive you’ll find wonderfully creative ways to make some new special ornaments and memories for your time abroad. I mean, how could you not? You’re Design Mom! :)

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24 Heidi January 3, 2011 at 2:50 pm

We took our decorations down on New Year’s Day as well. I had wanted to wait a little longer to ease myself back into normal life and avoid the post-holiday blues that my family is so prone to get. However, our tree was so dry from leaving it for a week and all the needles were making a mess. By the time we did take it down, I felt ready and it’s nice to have a bigger living room again! We made hot chocolate to try to make it a little more fun. I had wanted to play Christmas music one last time but that didn’t happen. Next year though, maybe that will become a tradition!

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25 Anne January 3, 2011 at 2:55 pm

I usually take them down on New Years day. And it always makes me blue. But then I’ll put away the Christmas loot which has been left all over the house and that makes me happy. This year I had a sick toddler on New Years and still haven’t gotten the decorations down. I’m feeling very discombobulated.
I have no idea how I’d choose which decorations could make the cut for bringing overseas!

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26 Kathrine January 3, 2011 at 3:13 pm

We put ours away TONIGHT! The christmastree started spreading needles all over the place…got tired of running around with the vacuumcleaner… ;-)

Have a nice evening!
Kathrine from Vesteralen http://visitvesteralen.com/index.aspx?L=en

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27 Krystle January 3, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Oman! I’ve been so bad with reading blogs, I didn’t know you were moving to France!! How exciting!

I actually take everything down and put away the first weekday of the new year. I like being able to take inventory, so to speak, and just kinda reminisce the holiday and past holidays. I like to re-read Christmas cards I’ve received and look at the pictures (on the picture cards). It kinda makes me wish that December would last a little longer.

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28 Stephanie at Modern Parents Messy Kids January 3, 2011 at 3:21 pm

I found it much harder to pack it all away this year since it was the first Christmas that my 2 year old really got into.

When I finally did bring myself to do it on the 2nd, I transferred all the decorations into left over Christmas themed boxes (originally came from Costco). It was a great way to re-use and to make it easy to spot the decorations in the garage next year.

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29 Jess (Where My Heart Is) January 3, 2011 at 3:45 pm

I usually leave it up until the kids go back to school too – however here in Australia that is the last week in January! It is not that I’m too busy until then just that it takes me a whole day to put (No real trees here as it is very hot at this time of year and I suppose we don’t have the right climate to grow them?) and I want to enjoy it as much as possible. My sister wins the prize though last year she put her tree away in April!!!

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30 Mom in Mendon January 3, 2011 at 4:20 pm

I like to take it down December 26 or 27th–if I get it up soon after TG. (You know it’s been up too long if you need to dust the ornaments. ) But this year our winter came early, and January promises to be cold and dark. So it’s still up, and still making me happy, all beautiful and twinkly–and dry. : )

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31 bettijo @ Paging Supermom January 3, 2011 at 4:32 pm

I’m always so sad to see the decorations go that I usually let them stay for as long as my hubby will let me. Last year he took them down on New Year’s day while I was out on some errands. He’s been super busy and so far they’re still up this year. My daughter’s birthday is Jan. 4, and I can usually get away with leaving them up until right after that.

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32 Erin January 3, 2011 at 5:24 pm

A little tangent – but this is an idea for something special for your next Christmas.

http://www.santonsmarcelcarbonel.com/

These were all over the place in Provence when I studied there in college. People would collect them and set up whole villages and scenes. They might be fun for the kids to choose and then have to remind them of their year there.

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33 findingmagnolia January 3, 2011 at 7:11 pm

In the past, I’ve taken ours down around New Year’s Day, but this year we will start a new tradition since we now have an Ethiopian in our midst. Ethiopian Christmas is January 7, and I will take down the decorations after that.

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34 Lindsey Whitney January 3, 2011 at 7:12 pm

We used to leave our up all through January (too much work to take down right away), but now that our daughter’s birthday is in January, we are taking them down this week to give her some separation between Christmas and birthday. Sure is a lot of work though!

Lindsey @ GrowingKidsMinistry.com

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35 Amanda January 3, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Oh, this year, even though I felt a little bit sheepish and grinchy, I needed it all away. I wanted the air to see my girls playing, the space to stretch my limbs and prepare for the sprint of back to school. Post-holiday cleans allow me to fall deeper in love with my family and my brood.

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36 Melissa January 3, 2011 at 7:26 pm

We take ours down at some point the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve because we host a large party in a small house. The tree at that point would drop every needle with all the chaos so out it goes.
I like this because after that particular party I’m exhausted and it’s nice to have a fresh start for school in the days following New Year’s Day.

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37 Ann January 3, 2011 at 8:10 pm

My kids go back tomorrow and everything was put away on Sunday morning (Lazily in my pajamas as you put it) while my husband put together a massive Lego ship with the boyz. The tree is still waiting there bare patiently to be dragged to the curb. I kind of enjoy looking at it without the lights and ornaments.

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38 Erin January 3, 2011 at 8:48 pm

January 6th, which is Twelfth Night and the official start of Carnival season in New Orleans.

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39 Kim January 3, 2011 at 9:39 pm

omigoodness I loved reading about how everyone leaves their tree and decorations up until about New Years. My mom was always taking down the tree on Christmas night. It always made me sooo sad. Now that I have a full time job I kind of get how busy she was and that was her only time, but jeeze it was always sad and it made me feel like she was ending Christmas early.

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40 Nick January 4, 2011 at 4:46 am

We always take the tree down by twelfth night, the 6th January, but we only put the decorations out on christmas eve, when the children were tiny we decorated after they had gone to bed so it was all a big surprise when they came downstairs on christmas day.
I love the decorations going up, though they are fairly minimal, but its even better when they all come down, there is so much space.

I am looking forward to reading about your experience of France, I worked as an au pair for a year after uni, and we go camping every year now, we love it.

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41 Ann January 4, 2011 at 6:59 am

Christmas is a 12 day celebration so we take ours down after the Feast of the Ephiphany (coming of the Magi) which falls on January 6th. We put our decorations up later than most people, though, so we’re not tired of them at this point.

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42 Karen January 4, 2011 at 7:46 am

We always wait until after Epiphany. By then we’re definitely ready to reclaim the living room and get back into routine life.

Those pictures of your ornaments are lovely. You could use the photos next December for holiday cards, or gift tags, as a way to incorporate the family ornaments into the festivities.

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43 Debbie January 4, 2011 at 9:20 am

I like to wait until after the Epiphany (Jan 6). I love Christmas lights and seeing the special holiday decorations. Each year, my husband gives me an ornament at the start of the Christmas season. What a special tradition – I now have eight in my collection. I also covet my mother’s and grandmother’s vintage ornaments, so I don’t rush to store them. I soak it all in so that the memories of Christmas past linger just long enough to get me through to next year.

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44 Yvonne January 4, 2011 at 9:39 am

Here in Germany many people wait until January 6th which is a holiday in catholic parts here.

But I like to have it put away sooner. When the new year begins I want to have the feeling of getting the new year started clean and fresh.

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45 Serena January 4, 2011 at 11:34 am

Here’s a Denver tradition (and I’m not sure where I heard it, maybe it’s just urban myth) – many people keep their outside lights up through the Stock Show (mid-January) so the country cowboys could enjoy the “big city” lights.

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46 the sleepy time gal January 4, 2011 at 11:47 am

Our decorations came down the exact same day here in PA. i was ready for the enormous tree to be down so we’d have more living space.

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47 Stephanie P January 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I’m sure there’s some correlation to us taking the tree down and my winter blues hitting. Why does putting Christmas away have to be so sad? I’m thinking about getting a small year round tree that new ornaments can go on to celebrate all holidays and seasons.

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48 Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves January 4, 2011 at 3:16 pm

My family always waiting until the 12 night….. Our church used to get together to celebrate the epiphany by having a huge bonfire of all the trees…. but now we just take the 6th to celebrate and get the tree down. Give closer to the reason for the season.

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49 Lindsey Leon January 4, 2011 at 5:00 pm

lovely ornaments girl!
we always wait til after the 6th of January- that’s the Day of the Kings (the three wisemen) and they are BIG celebrators of this day in France, so I’m sure you’ll experience it next year. They have huge parties with lots of cake- we party like that at our house Jan 6th and then the decorations can come down!

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50 Jessica R. January 4, 2011 at 5:21 pm

are you all for sure going to France? I must have missed a posting somewhere!
=)
“we” take our decorations down new years weekend. although, i must admit, i still have one (of 3) trees lingering….

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51 stola January 5, 2011 at 7:18 am

Our decorations nearly always go up late, there is something very enjoyable about decorating the tree on Christmas Eve – it stops me from being a perfectionist. Once Christmas day is past the tree is usually removed simply because it takes up so much space but the rest of the decorations are kept up until the holiday season is over and usually removed the weekend after epiphany.
This year, due to being snowed in, we used a holly from the garden for our tree. It was the most ‘festive’ christmas tree we’ve ever had though I had to raid the sewing box for ribbons and lace to drape – tinsel just didn’t look right.

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52 Vanessa January 5, 2011 at 10:22 am

We celebrate and then take our Christmas tree and decorations down on Epiphany Day, January 6th as well.

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53 Chelsey Ercanbrack January 5, 2011 at 10:36 am

I’m so excited for you and your family…what a lovely adventure. Your next Christmas will be one to remember. I, too, love your ornaments…especially the gold and holly paper-esque ones. Do share where you found them? Or did you make them?? I bought a new tree and decorations after Christmas, for our second tree downstairs, and those would be a perfect addition.

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54 Sarah Jane January 5, 2011 at 7:03 pm

As much as I love putting Christmas decorations up, I love taking them down just as much. Sometimes the clutter gets to me by the end of the season and I just want things back to normal. This year we had some new furniture and a new rug that I was eager to get in place…(see Living Room Transformation on my blog: http://lovelychaos.typepad.com )

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55 Kaely January 7, 2011 at 8:46 pm

We wait until after 12th night too. Usually we take the tree down on the following Saturday. I start packing up stuff (stockings, books, misc christmas stuff) on New Years Day, but the tree stays up and decorated through epiphany. We buy our first king cake of the year the day we take the tree down and Mardi Gras season starts around here. King cake helps motivate everyone to help because we don’t eat it until all the Christmas stuff is put away.

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