As I grew up we would always start Thanksgiving night or the day after. But now I start the Friday before Thanksgiving. Right after work I get the tree out. It takes me about 3 hours to get the tree up and to get the lights and garland and crystal beads on. Part of putting the lights on is doing what I call color and light managment. I like to have all the different colors evenly disbursed so you don't have like 3 reds bunched right up here and 4 blues there. You also don't want to have too many lights here and dark areas there. Also the cords can no be visible. After this I work into the night putting up my best ornaments in the choicest places on the tree. For example, all of my Forsty Friends have to go by the lights to be properly accentuated. This must be done at night so the daylight doesn't interfere with where I may best want my lights.
I then put the second string ornaments on to fill it out. This is my B team and it gets less every year as I acquire more and more first stringers. I work all Saturday afternoon adding candycanes, pine cones and cyrstyal icecycles to bring out more sparkle. The final touch is adding 4-5 packs of tinsel. For this the lights must be off. I totally cover the tree in tinsel carfefully disbursing it evenly over the entire tree. It makes a 100% difference in the tree to add tinsel. And the effect when I turn the lights back on is astounding.
This all takes me about 15 hours.