Real Estate News

The massive move-in extravaganza of ‘Allston Christmas,’ explained

Here’s a guide to understanding the phenomenon of Allston Christmas, the day half of Boston moves and the other half finds new decor for their homes.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Merry Allston Christmas, Bostonians! ’Tis the season for hand-me-down furniture gathering bugs on street corners, double-parked U-Hauls as far as the eye can see, and a swarm of youths flocking to their cramped apartments.

Confused? Here’s a guide to understanding the phenomenon of Allston Christmas, the day half of Boston moves and the other half finds new decor for their homes.

What exactly is Allston Christmas?

Allston Christmas is the nickname for the days leading up to September 1, which is when most apartment leases in the city of Boston start. That means the streets are full of renters taking their furniture, clothes, kitchenware, and other home goods out of their apartments to make way for the people moving in.

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Some of those items will make it to moving trucks or be stuffed into the back of sedans to be shipped to a new apartment. Many other items will be abandoned on sidewalks.

As such, Allston Christmas is like a hoarder’s heaven, with streets full of items for the taking. It’s like a city-wide flea market.

Why Allston? Is it only seen there?

Allston is one of the nighborhoods with a high percentage of renters, but it’s certainly not the only one. Call it Brighton Christmas, Fenway Christmas, Back Bay Christmas — whatever. Any neighborhood near a major university or with a large number of young renters will celebrate the occasion.

Here’s a heat map of the areas in which residents have applied for moving truck permits, which serves as a good barometer for how many people are moving.

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What’s up with the “Christmas’’ part of the name?

Because there are free things everywhere! With so many people moving their furniture from place to place, kitchen tables may not fit into the new apartment and old desks may be ready for an upgrade.

Ikea coffee tables, frat house couches, old-school square TVs, boxes of clothes hangers — all of them will be sitting on the side of the street for the next few days, crying out for a new owner.

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And if there aren’t any takers, they’ll head to the dump.

Why do so many apartment leases start on Sept. 1?

As with most bad ideas in Boston, blame college students. The September-to-September lease is timed to the student undergraduate invasion every school year. More than 200,000 students get their higher-education in the Boston area, and about 38,000 students lived in off-campus housing in Boston last year.

That annual timeline has come to define the lease cycle, even for areas without as many college students. For example, about 80 percent of Beacon Hill apartments have leases that begin and end in September, according to John Ford of Ford Realty.

When did people start actually calling move-in day “Allston Christmas’’?

The name is fairly recent. Urban Dictionary’s entry was submitted back in 2008, and the first mentions on Twitter came in the summer of 2009.

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Boston.com picked up on the trend in 2011, but Google Trends says the title didn’t begin to take off in news headlines until the summer of 2012.

Of course, move-in day has a long history in Boston, as this awesome historical gallery attests.

Apparently, Boston Move-In Day Used to Be a Ton of Fun

Debbie Brown moved into her Boston University dorm in 1969. She brought along a massive stuffed animal. JOSEPH RUNCI

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Martha Ciaburri started unpacking her belongings all the way from New Haven, Connecticut in 1970. ED JENNER/GLOBE

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From front, Vladimir Kilinksy, Alexander Beliavsky, Shimon Walt, and Ayala Barel moved items out of a Beacon Street apartment in Brookline in 1975. ULRIKE WELSCH

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Chris Bland took a break after helping load a truck from her Park Drive apartment. JOHN BLANDING

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Debbie Potolosky relaxed and watched over a friend's belongings while moving onto Marlborough Street in 1979. JOHN BLANDING

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Rob Rumrill admired his possessions after unpacking his Hertz moving truck on Marlborough Street in 1979. JANET KNOTT

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Elizabeth Bobb squeezed through cars as she moved her giant bird cage with the rest of her belongings into a new apartment on Marlborough Street in 1979. ULRIKE WELSCH

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Paula Cuzzone took a break while helping a friend move out of a Marlborough Street apartment in 1981. JOHN BLANDING

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A man helped his friend move out of the South End in 1981. SALLY KROEHNKE

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A student carried her bear down Commonwealth Avenue on move-in day in 1982. WENDY MAEDA

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Geri Gruyters sat on her couch on Beacon Street while awaiting keys to her new apartment on Commonwealth Avenue in 1983. MICHAEL QUAN

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Rob Schlaak caught Cathy Goucher under a lamp while they moved furniture on Marlborough Street in 1985. JOHN BLANDING

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Boston College juniors Lorraine Giordano (front) and Susan Healy moved their belongings out of their apartment on Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton in 1987. WENDY MAEDA/BUSHNELL

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Two men worked together to move a piano in 1989 around the Cambridge area. TOM LANDERS/GLOBE

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This man relaxed on a sofa on the back of a truck moving furniture as it headed along Tremont Street in downtown Boston. JOHN TLUMACKI

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Julio Amaral, a student at Simmons College studying English language, got some help from friends moving into an apartment in Mission Hill. KNOTT/GLOBE

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Denice Couch moved from her Marlboro Street apartment in 1976. Edward Jenner/The Boston Globe

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Men moved a couch into a second floor apartment on Washington Street in Braintree in 1991. GLobe Archive

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Gregg LaVoie rested during a red light on Forsythe Street near Northeastern University as he helped move a bed into a truck in 1978. Globe Archive

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College students moved into dorms and apartments. This photo was taken on Bay State Road in 1980. Globe Archive

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This isnu2019t a traffic jam. These were cars parked on Beacon Street as students of Fisher Jr. College emptied their belongings out of cars in 1979. David Ryan/The Boston Globe

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John Steele moved a piano into a third floor apartment on Marlboro Street in 1979. Ulrike Welsch/The Boston Globe

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Rick Rice (right) and Billy Dawes packed up their belongings u2014 including an automobile u2014 into the moving van in 1994. David Ryan/THe Boston Globe

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Randall Roth took a break from moving his belongings into a truck in Cambridge in 1978. He was moving to Washington, DC. David Ryan/The Boston Globe

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In 1979, a group of friends tried to find the best possible way to move a piano onto the third floor of an apartment building on Marlborough Street. ULRIKE WELSCH

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What are the best discarded items to take?

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The real question is one of capacity. What are you able to fit into a car? How many friends can you gather to carry that pool table to your apartment on the 3rd floor?

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Most wood furniture items are good for taking once they get a scrub down. Book shelves, dressers, and the like are relatively easy to clean and refurbish with a fresh coat of paint.

Also, make sure the items are actually abandoned and not just sitting on the sidewalk. Don’t be the person taking a new couch from someone who just took a quick bathroom break.

What should you avoid at all costs?

Furniture with cushions or upholstery is right out. Mattresses, couches, and love seats should be avoided at all costs; basically, anything that could potentially be infested with bed bugs. Don’t take that risk.

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Taking stuff off the sidewalk seems pretty gross, no?

Definitely! If you’re queasy about the idea of grabbing randomly dropped items, you can use the typical avenues for these moving leftovers: Craigslist, Facebook groups for selling and buying, or just nearby friends. Those might be just as dirty, but at least they won’t have sat on asphalt for who knows how long.

How can I enjoy Allston Christmas from the comforts of my computer?

Twitter, for one, is a great source of intentional and unintentional fun with the “Allston Christmas’’ search term.

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The day’s events also serve as inspiration for a comedic web-series called, appropriately, Allston Xmas. “Boston is a city of great ideas,’’ its Twitter bio reads. “Making everybody move on the same day is not one of them.’’

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What are you supposed to do if you have to move out Aug. 31 but can’t move in until Sept. 1?

¯_(ツ)_/¯. If you ever figure out the answer, tell Boston.com’s Megan Turchi.

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