Etiquette expert reveals how Christmas decor can make you look common

Are YOUR Christmas decorations making you look tacky? Etiquette expert reveals the dos and don’ts of decking the halls – and why ‘proper’ people don’t start until MID December

  • Etiquette expert William Hanson explains your decor can reveal your social class
  • Tinsel, door bows and non-green fake Christmas trees should be avoided
  • Real trees won’t last until Twelfth Night unless you put them up mid-December

Tis the season to be jolly… and also to shriek in horror at that ghastly inflatable ‘Santa’ next-door-but-one has just erected, jeopardising the property prices.

But with current political turmoil and the absence of anything better to do in certain people’s lives it is perhaps understandable why Christmas keeps starting earlier and earlier.

It’s easy to spot someone’s social class at the best of times but even easier once the baubles get brought up from the cellar.

A household’s festive décor choices can reveal more than just their readiness of a visit from Father Christmas.

Here is my ultimate guide as to what’s in and what’s out for a socially mobile Christmas 2018.

Door bows and garlands

Now that we’re firmly in the Instagram age, tarted up entrances are thought to be appealing.

Garlands of fake flowers now adorn lesser-quality restaurants year-round; at Christmas private households now take misguided inspiration and stick a door bow on their front door.

Door bows, pictured, and fake flower garlands are to be avoided at all costs as they don’t make the door look any better

Covering your PVC door in some enormous, shiny taffeta bow is not going to make the door look any better. You’ve heard about rolling the proverbial in glitter?

Wreaths (ideally real) are the way forward.


For those with any taste whatsoever, tinsel remains the antichrist.

Even though some trees – even royal trees – have been seen to have a touch of tinsel from time to time, in the modern day, no tree, banister or door frame should be bedecked with this, the most common of Christmas accessories.

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It never looks good, is horrid to touch and is a waste of money.

Some shops will sell black tinsel, which particularly appeals to nouveau households, making their ‘living room’ look as if it is hosting a memorial service for Liberace.

But there is one caveat to this. When tinsel first appeared in the 17th century it was made from extruded strands of real silver. If you can get your hands on any of this, then tinsel is suddenly more acceptable.

Etiquette expert William Hanson also described tinsel as ‘the antichrist’ as it feels horrid. The only acceptable tinsel is made from strands of real silver


Sophistication is genuine, so fake trees are never going to be sophisticated.

Those who put their trees up in November or early December are always the ones who have plastic trees.

Real trees wouldn’t last that long, which is why proper people usually put them up in mid-December so that they last until the Twelfth Night (which in 2019 is Saturday 5th January).

William Hanson (pictured) said: ‘The rule is: the further away from green it is, the more common it is. Thus: pink and white trees – the pits’

But there are degrees of hideousness when it comes to fake trees. A green fake tree is (just about) better than one of a different colour. The rule is: the further away from green it is, the more common it is. Thus: pink and white trees – the pits.

And don’t waste your time with minimalist trees – a bauble on a twig is not a Christmas tree, and books artistically piled into a tree shape smacks of too much free time.


When it comes to lights on a tree the rule is very much to remember that it’s meant to be a ‘white Christmas’.

Multi-coloured lights look very 1980s and do not have the easy simplicity of white fairy lights, which represent the stars in the sky.

Lighting up your entire drab semi in rows of lights (even if they are white) is never a good idea, socially.

Flood lighting a particularly grand tree, or adding a few twinkly lights to it, is passable, but bedecking your double-glazed bay window with blue and red lights is not.

If you want a socially mobile Christmas this year, stick to the theme of a ‘white Christmas’ and avoid 1980s multi-coloured lights


You may think a be-winged fairy may look beautiful atop a lit tree but it’s simply not the done thing in discerning households.

A fairy did not lead the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem in the traditional Christmas story, did it?

It was a star, not a fairy. Fairies have no place at Christmas. They are outcasts.

Novelty decorations

Should your husband (and it is always men) return home with an electronic dancing Douglas Fir, or a fake mounted reindeer head that bleats Good King Wenceslas to passers-by, then you have two options: get rid of it, or get rid of him.

If neither take your fancy, the only remaining choice is to display this monstrous folderol in such a prominent, focal point of the house you reclaim any dignity back as visitors will assume you are being so distasteful and common you’ve come full circle and so you’re quite smart.

Novelty decorations are distasteful and should be chucked out – or placed in a prominent place so guests think you’re being common ironically

Don’t resort to hiding it somewhere unobtrusive – it will still get noticed (something that awful always will be) and best to be open and brazen about it.

Failing that, if you have a cat place the animatronic snowman or whatever on the edge of the table and discreetly plonk the cat nearby and hope for the best.


Finally, even if you have the most subtle and sophisticated of decorations, much can be determined about when you put them up.

We in Britain have more or less lost our cultural identity and so we have had to knick America’s, where November’s Thanksgiving rolls directly into Christmas and the decorations stay up for weeks on end.

The Church of England’s stance on Christmas décor (well, the crib) is not before the 17th December (which this year is a Monday). This is a good rule of thumb, even if you are not of a religious persuasion.

If a house’s baubles have gone up in November then however much repenting you may do during Lent, it will never be enough. 

William Hanson co-hosts the weekly podcast Help I Sexted My Boss, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Acast. Visit 

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