As the Thanksgiving weekend passes, and with it the month of November, many are looking ahead to the next major holiday, Christmas.
We all know that Christmas is a time of joy and, for many, deep spirituality. The holiday comes with its own unique festivities, decorations, and traditions, and the way these decorations affect your emotions may run deeper than you ever realized.
According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, people who install their Christmas decorations earlier are happier:
“The results support the idea that residents can use their home’s exterior to communicate attachment and possibly to integrate themselves into a neighborhood’s social activities,” the study’s authors wrote.
The study notes that a large part of this phenomenon can actually be attributed to nostalgia: Christmas is an exciting, communal holiday that punctuates the end of a year and the start of a new one, and many people have fond memories of spending Christmas with their family and friends stretching far back into their childhoods.
Nostalgia is more than just a pleasant experience, however — it also boosts dopamine, affecting your brain:
“It does create that neurological shift that can produce happiness,” psychologist Deborah Serani said of the emotion in an interview on TODAY.
“I think anything that takes us out of our normal habituation, the normal day in, day out… signals our sense, and then our senses measure if it’s pleasing or not,” Serani added.
Psychoanalyst Steve McKeown further analyzed how preparing for Christmas early relates to the complex psychology of nostalgia, noting that the impulse to seek out nostalgic experiences can originate in pain, but that the memories it brings are almost always positive:
“Although there could be a number of symptomatic reasons why someone would want to obsessively put up decorations early, most commonly for nostalgic reasons, either to relive the magic or to compensate for past neglect,” he said.
“In a world full of stress and anxiety people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of childhood.
“Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extends the excitement!”
The Greek tradition of Karavaki
There are many ways Christmas is celebrated across the world, but the holiday is most commonly associated with the ancient tradition of decorating trees with countless ornaments and beautiful lights. However, an old traditional custom in Greece’s islands and coastal regions dictates that people should decorate a boat rather than an evergreen tree at Christmastime.
Although almost every Greek city and household does decorate a Christmas tree, there are still a number of public spaces in Greece where one can see a Christmas boat right next to a tree.
The tradition of the ”Karavaki,” which is Greek for ”small boat,” is deeply rooted in the folkways of a country with a symbiotic relationship with the sea.