Traditionally, it was not brought in and decorated until Christmas Eve and was removed from the home on the day after the Twelfth Night, Jan. 5.
It was considered bad luck to have a tree up before or after those dates.
In contemporary variations, after trudging into the attic to retrieve our polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tree we blanket them with shiny baubles, deco mesh, tinsel, and electric lights as early as the day after Thanksgiving.
If the number of trees determines luck, then one woman in Cleveland should have the best luck of anyone.
By Nov. 1, Mary Helen Waller has her entire home adorned with over a dozen Christmas trees housing over 4,000 ornaments, more than 70 Santa figurines — taller than 6 inches— a gingerbread village, an assortment of snowman, an array of Christmas Countdowns and hundreds of other Christmas trinkets, baubles, nativities, and garlands.
"It started with one little Santa," said Waller. "I call him my 'seed Santa.' He cost $20 in 1980. That was a lot of money then."
For 32 years Waller has collected ornaments, figurines and nativities.
Most of her trees are themed – birds, Santa, Peanuts characters, cats, Wizard of Oz, and golf, for her husband Bob.
"Ninety-nine point eight percent of these are from Hallmark." Waller continued with a smile, "I have become very friendly with the store managers."
Indeed she has.
After retiring from the public school system in May 2007, Waller began working part-time at the Hallmark in downtown Cleveland that July.
She has even passed the enthusiasm for Christmas down to her daughters, Tara and Caroline, and her grandsons Tanner, 10, John Albert, 6, and Crawford, 4.
"My daughter, Caroline had the idea. Years ago when my mother passed away, I didn't want to get rid of her jewelry or have it sit in a box, so Caroline put all of her jewelry on the tree. Every time I look up I think of my Momma," Waller said of the one tree that remains year round — her mother's jewelry tree.
Caroline also painted the Santa overlooking the den mantle.
Grandsons, Tanner and John Albert of Southaven, like Christmas as well. Each has his own tree.
"Tara had to get a six and a half foot tree for her boys to put their ornaments on," she added. "They have series, and I purchase the next one in the series. Tanner played soccer. He got a snowman playing soccer. John Albert got one playing baseball. He," she said, looking at Crawford, "has a series called Santa's Sweet Ride. This year it was a yellow submarine. A helicopter was last year."
"I kind of go crazy," she said referring to her Christmas ornament shopping sprees. "I go get 6, 8, 10 ornaments a year. And then AFTER Christmas when the sales happen, I'm right there buying some more!"
Waller said she tends to seek Santas and cats for herself and looks for something memorable that occurred during the year for her family members.
"Every year I say I'm going to quit, but I never do," she grinned. "I just love Christmas."