Mark Matthews and his granddaughter, Tishelle Phelps, 6, sit by a reindeer light display in his front yard Saturday in Killeen. Decorations are going up all across Central Texas as people prepare for Christmas.
Mark Matthews holds his granddaughter, Tishelle Phelps, 6, as she places a star on a Christmas tree in his front yard. Matthews got the decorations out on Friday to get his family in the holiday spirit. He takes them down around New Year’s.

By Chris McGuinness
Killeen Daily Herald

Shortly after Thanksgiving leftovers were stored away, Christmas decorations appeared during what many consider the traditional weekend to prepare for the December holiday.

On Friday, Killeen residents Mark Matthews, his wife, Annamarie, and their 6-year-old granddaughter, Tishelle Phelps, opened their garage door on Vardeman Avenue and pulled out boxes full of Christmas decorations.

“It’s kind of a tradition with us,” said Mark Matthews as he worked to steady a deer made of small lights on his front lawn. “We have Tishelle help us, and we get everything out and start getting ready for Christmas.”

The Matthews were one of the first residents on their street to start decorating their house for Christmas. As Mark Matthews worked to put lights up, and his wife carefully placed garlands around the couple’s home, Tishelle pointed to a small tree with ornaments on the porch. “That was me, I helped,” she said.

While some residents may wait until early December, or even later, to display their holiday spirit, Mark Matthews said he wanted to continue a tradition as well as take advantage of the mild weather. “It’s just so nice outside,” he said. “It’s really the perfect kind of day to be outside decorating.”

One of his neighbors, Ericka Rodriguez, agreed and said her family got an even earlier start on Christmas decorating. “We kind of have our own tradition, too,” said Rodriguez, a teacher’s aide at Trimmier Elementary School. “We decorated the inside of the house (on Thanksgiving), then we do the outside of the house the next day.”

Rodriguez said her three young children always are eager and willing to lend a hand to help. “For them it means Christmas is coming soon, so of course they are excited,” she said.

Both neighbors said they didn’t mind ringing in the Christmas season early and said they usually take the decorations down after Christmas, around New Year’s.

“Then you’re in January right after (Christmas) ends,” Mark Matthews said. “That’s the best time to buy more decorations for next year.”

Safe decorating tips

Trees and Decorations

When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness.

A fresh tree is green, its needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers.

The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.

When setting up a tree at home, place it away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, vents and radiators.

Because heated rooms rapidly dry out live trees, be sure to monitor water levels and keep the tree stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic, and do not block doorways.

When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label, “Fire Resistant.”

Although this label does not mean that the tree will not catch fire, it does indicate that the tree is more resistant to catching fire.

In homes with small children, take special care to avoid sharp, weighted or breakable decorations.

Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children who could swallow or inhale small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.


Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets. Do not use electric lights on a metallic tree.

If using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the intended use.

When using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure that the lights have been certified for outdoor use, and only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.


Keep burning candles within sight. Extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room, or leave the house.

Keep candles on a stable heat-resistant surface where kids and pets cannot reach them or knock them over.

Lighted candles should be away from items that can catch fire and burn easily, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains and furniture.

Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission