MINNEAPOLIS — On Nov. 1, Minneapolis photographer Cindi Yang arranged a trio of slim artificial pine trees in her living room.

On Nov. 2, she shared a video of herself setting up her Christmas trees on TikTok, where it quickly gathered nearly 40,000 likes.

Though she needed a little Christmas, the trees were enough. Yang decided to wait until after Thanksgiving to hang the ornaments.

Lana Baggenstos didn't bother to hold off.

The clinical pharmacy specialist who lives in Minneapolis put up her Christmas tree — decorations and all — on the first day of November.

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"I thought, 'What the heck, it's 2020. It's been a long year and we could use some holiday cheer,'?" Baggenstos said.

Like Yang, she was hoping the decorations would "change up the scene, and bring in more happiness and joy as we hunker down this holiday — and for who knows how long."

Even before the skulls and ghosts from Halloween came down, Christmas lovers across Minnesota were dragging out boxes of snowmen ornaments and untangling strands of twinkly lights.

This isn't just the usual calendar creep. Those who are embracing Christmas in November say it's a form of self care. (One commenter on Yang's TikTok said that decorating for Christmas "makes my mental health better!")

With the likelihood that Thanksgiving celebrations will be curtailed or canceled, many say they are needing something merry and bright to raise their spirits. And now that traditions have been upended, hanging some stockings with care more than a month before the holiday might bring joy to our pandemic-depressed world.

Mayo Clinic psychologist Craig Sawchuk said putting up holiday decorations can give our brains (which are hardwired to be alert to threats) a break. It also can add a little novelty and give us a sense of productivity.

"We can see how doing something as seemingly simple as putting up Christmas lights actually can carry a lot of positive weight," he said.

Of course, retailers are taking note of the early enthusiasm.

"We are finding that people are starting to decorate and create for the holidays this year earlier than ever," said Anna Olsen, manager of crafted content at Jo-Ann's.

"It's been a crazy year, and people are looking for a little comfort and joy. Decorating for the holidays is an activity people really look forward to, and this year it's likely to have even more meaning."

Another reason people are getting into the decorating game? COVID-19 has put the kibosh on lots of travel plans.

"Many families who ordinarily travel over the holidays may choose to stay home," said Olsen, "so they're looking for ways to amp up the holiday cheer in their own homes."

Entertainment outlets are catching Christmas fever, too.

Twin Cities radio station KOOL 108 switched over to an all-Christmas music format on Nov. 6, at least two weeks earlier than usual. The Hallmark Channel began premiering new Christmas movies starting Oct. 24. And "All I Want for Christmas Is You" singer Mariah Carey shared a video of her own tree to Instagram — on Nov. 1.

No rules

America has always been an early bird when it comes to Christmas. While we have made the day after Thanksgiving the day to break out the decorations, many cultures wait to put up Christmas trees on the first day of Advent or even on Christmas Eve.

Artificial trees have made it easier to get a jump on the season, because they don't dry out like live trees, which last about four weeks.

Baggenstos, who has an artificial tree, hadn't planned to put it up so early. But when her 4-year-old son asked if they could, she couldn't think of a reason to say no.

"Honestly, we'll take any excuse to celebrate something at this point," she said.

"My husband rolled his eyes at me, like 'No, please no,' but he held his tongue. We still had birthday decorations up from my son's birthday on October 25, Halloween decorations up, and fall decorations up, when the tree went up just to add to the chaos. No rules this year."

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(c)2020 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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