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When do you decorate? When do you take down? Any rationale behind it?

I am decorating today inside, and outside on 12/10. This is partly to do with my work schedule. We, however, want the house pretty much in season by 12/6, for St Nicholas' day. We also place a manger out without the Lord until Christmas. We add straw to it for good deeds. That one was lifted from Michael Matt and his family's tradition. Very good tradition it has been for us! I actually have no problem with decorating as long as Advent has already started. We keep our stuff up until 1/13.
I just finished decorating the outside of the house 11/30.  We always start right after New Years.  We will put up the tree tomorrow, and take it down after the 6th of Jan.
Our family custom (I was born in 1951), which I (and mother) still follow today, was to decorate on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, after we returned from Mass.  If the Fourth Sunday of Advent happens to be Christmas Eve that was at times backed up a day to Saturday.  In my former and current parishes the church is decorated after the Fourth Sunday of Advent unless that is really close to Christmas and some decorating needs to occur before (the trees may be put up, but not lighted on the Fourth Sunday; the poinsetta stands may be out, but not the plants, and the stands covered in purple cloth).

The reason being that we are in Advent, not Christmas yet.

The liturgicl Christmas season extends from midnight December 24 until the Feast of the Epiphany, and my family, I, and parishes I am familiar with, keep the decorations up until then.  Occassionally if some greenery is becoming too dry (and thus a fire hazard) or poinsetta plants are badly wilting (they will usually keep through the season if properly watered, as will a good tree) those might be removed, but the majority of decorations should be kept up until Epiphany, in my humble opinion.

Besides being the traditional custom it is a nice "counter cultural" practice to contrast with the current general customs of decorating right after Thanksgiving and ripping everything down before New Years.  Sometimes someone will ask me (in Advent) why I haven't decorated yet, or after New Years why I haven't put the Christmas things away yet, and it can provide for a "teachable moment".
Our old Priest that I served under as an altar boy was a hawk about not putting Christmas decorations up before Christmas. I remember one year when Christmas Eve was also the Fourth Sunday of Advent my mom and I went to church in the morning to fulfill our Sunday obligation, then went in the evening to fulfill our Christmas obligation. In the morning (Christmas Eve, Mass of the Fourth Sunday of Advent) there were absolutely no decorations in the church...no trees, no lights, no flowers, no garland, no nativity. When we went in the evening (Christmas Eve, First Mass of Christmas), the church was completely decorated.
That priest protested so vigorously about the impropriety of putting Christmas decorations up so early, that he was known to leave his Christmas tree in the rectory up until July in protest.

For people's actual homes, I think that priest generally was okay with putting decorations up around Gaudete Sunday, but I seem to remember him also saying the lights shouldn't be turned on until Christmas.
We always decorated on Christmas eve. Especially the tree should not be put up earlier. It is a sign of the commercialization of Christmas.
The Traditional decoration for Advent is an advent wreath. We used to go into the woods to collect the twigs and my mother made it herself.
An empty manger is OK. If you put up the nativity scene on Christmas eve, the three wise men should stay in the box until epiphany. Some people put the wise men somewhere else in the house and make them pilgrimage through the house during the twelve days of Christmas. That's nice as well.
I usually start first week of Advent. Put up the stockings and stuff, then gradually add things. I leave them up until at least Jan 6th.
Mrs. Heinrich has made our abode a Mediterranean and Alpine winter wonderland charmland.
Stately Bombay Manor remains undecorated for the holidays.  Only pagans decorate.  I kid of course.

So much of the Christmas decorations are made in China crap that it's just not worth it. It's depressing when I see I can buy figurines for a manger scene for $1.98 a piece at Wal Mart.  Probably sacrilegious as well.  I think the Holy Family is worth more than $1.98 a piece. 
(11-30-2012, 10:03 PM)DrBombay Wrote: [ -> ]Stately Bombay Manor remains undecorated for the holidays.  Only pagans decorate.  I kid of course.

So much of the Christmas decorations are made in China crap that it's just not worth it. It's depressing when I see I can buy figurines for a manger scene for $1.98 a piece at Wal Mart.  Probably sacrilegious as well.  I think the Holy Family is worth more than $1.98 a piece.

I bought a very beautiful little statue of St. Joseph in your great country a couple of years ago for something like $7.  It was made in China, but I didn't think it looked cheap at all. 

Last year I put up purple lights on the first Sunday of Advent, and multicolored ones on Christmas Eve.  I kept them up until the Feast of the Presentation, or Candlemas, Feb. 2. 
I might go into Pike National Forest and hack down a tree.

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