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We know that our spiritual preparations for Christmas start on the first day of Advent, but how do you prepare for Christmas on a practical level?  I didn't grow up celebrating Christmas at all so I always assumed that the "Christmas season" started after Thanksgiving, (of course, right when Santa Claus shows up at the end of the Macy's Parade).  Even though my wife wasn't a practicing Catholic when we started dating, she would always harrumph whenever she saw a Christmas tree before it was even December.  Her grandmother (the only vestige of Catholic culture in the family) always kept the tree up until the day after Epiphany. 

I have some friends who don't decorate at all until Christmas Eve.  They wait until the kids go to bed, and then the father goes out and gets the tree and they decorate it while the children are asleep.  It has to be magical for a child to wake up that way, but it also sounds like a ton of work, too!  Also kids seem to enjoy decorating the tree.

When do you start decorating for Christmas?  How soon do you start shopping for gifts?  When do you put your Christmas lights up (if you do that?)  And how do you prepare for Christmas without at the same time celebrating it?

We try and buy presents before Advent. Set up tree with no lights or decorations, plus Advent wreath, on first day of Advent. Add lights on Sunday before Christmas. Decorate tree on Christmas eve.

Light Advent candle and say Advent prayer each evening in Advent. Advent music CD.  We try and avoid pre-Christmas parties and the like, until Christmas.

Avoiding the pre-Christmas secular celebrations can be a good Advent penance.
Since we use a real tree we don't put it up until right before Christmas, but I have my little Christmas village and Nativity set that I like to put up in December, just because I like them and think they are pretty.  One covers my entire fire place and the other the piano.  Both are really beautiful.  Pretty much the same as our family did when I was a kid way back when. 
I have an advent wreath.  And play and sing advent hymns which are my favorites.

I put up Christmas lights on Gaudete Sunday because they are fun.  The tree is a wild juniper out front  that gets garland and birdseed ornaments.
(11-25-2013, 09:54 PM)Philomena01 Wrote: [ -> ]Since we use a real tree we don't put it up until right before Christmas, but I have my little Christmas village and Nativity set that I like to put up in December, just because I like them and think they are pretty.  One covers my entire fire place and the other the piano.  Both are really beautiful.  Pretty much the same as our family did when I was a kid way back when. 

Same for us. We replace what we have on our family altar with a nativity set (minus the baby Jesus until Christmas eve) plus some Christmas village buildings and figurines.
I grew up without Advent, so it's been a bit of a process, especially once we started having children.  We light Advent candles and say prayers at least on Sundays, working towards daily - with the wife at work during dinnertime during the week, our custom is often honored in the breach.  We try to put up the tree on Gaudete Sunday, but do not decorate it until Christmas Eve. I kind of like that - a sign for the kids that Christmas is near, coupled with the rose vestments at Church.
presents are basically done

advent wreath.

bing crosby dec 1

ill get my tree early this year before there is a run on them. i got the next to last tree in town last year.

decorate dec 12

tree down after epiphany.

I do all my shopping before advent.  We keep gifts very simple.  We get out our Advent candles, Marys Star path (kind of an advent calendar) and play advent music.  We bake and freeze for  the Christmas season. 
We get our tree the week before Christmas and then decorate the tree and the house on Christmas eve. 
I absolutely LOVE Christmas. Had Christ not been born, none of us could be saved. I go all out.........pine, poinsettias,. Nativity sets & Santas, etc. etc. & my daughter is following in my footsteps. We had a real tree for 23 years & nothing else except a very inexpensive 1 piece Nativity set. That's all we could afford. HOWEVER, I budgeted through the year & I saved up about $450.for gifts for 4 children & our parents. I didn't start shopping until the second or third week in December & benefited because the sales were great by then

When I got my shop going, we were able to move back to the country  (3 miles out of town, 5 min. to Walmart  Unsure, yet a 5 acre "yard" that's gorgeous when it's filled with untouched snow).
Now, if my husband was willing to sell this place........we could move to an apartment & have plenty of money to spend, but that's not going to happen. (I love it here, too)

Now, because of my husband's fear of fire, I have an artificial tree, we're retired, my one Granddaughter that lives here in town will help me decorate it & we'll have a special day cocoa (the real homemade kind of yesteryear) & Christmas cookies, Christmas CAROLS will be playing, & we'll be making memories.  

We aren't giving regular presents this year. This black Friday thing....starting, in some cases, before Thanksgiving has really turned me off. Instead, we have reserved lanes at the bowling alley & all 20 of us will go bowling. Each family is putting in about $20. & I'm supplying the treat money. Last year our pond was frozen solid enough that we pushed all of the snow off, lit a fire in a barrel & had an ice skating party. All of this happens on Christmas Eve day.....we rest a while, have some homemade chili & all go to Midnight Mass together. On Christmas morn, when everyone is finally awake, we put the Christ Child in the manger. read the Christmas story according to Luke from the old Douay Rheims bible & have our big Christmas dinner.

I love the next part. Christmas Day, after dinner, we play board games.......all of us. My husband moves most of the furniture into the hall & we set up 5 tables, one for scrabble (my favorite), one for monopoly, one for Apples, Apples & one table is filled with broken crayons & coloring books for the 4 little ones. You can hardly hear yourself think.

I'm so sick of all of the commercializing of Christ's birthday. I'm giving Spiritual Bouquets to my children & children-in-law.

Growing up (1951) we decorated on the afternoon of the Fouth Sunday of Advent, except every 7 years or so when that was also Christmas Eve, and we'd back it up a day or two.  There were a few things that gradualy made their appearance over the 4 weeks: a festively decorated basket for Christmas cards, a wreath on the door, etc..  The tree, crib, and general festal adornments happened after Mass on Advent IV.  I still do this today.  I rent small bachlor quarters and don't have many visitors over but when non Catholics (and sadly even a few Catholics) ask why I wait so long to decorate it is an opportunity to explain that Christmas starts AT CHRISTMAS, and continous until Epiphany (depending on the circumstance one might even be able to explain the theology behind it as well as the tradition).  It drives me crazy to see somone's home  or shop beautifully decorated just after Thanksgiving, and stripped bare by New Years.

My one concession:  During my Peace Corps days in Colombia (1973-1976) I was intrigued with their custom of the "Christmas Village".  This is what most families had rather than a tree (which is of Germanic origion if I'm not mistaken), and was not common in the U.S. at the time, at least where I grew up.  A few years ago I started collecting pieces for a "Christmas Village" (there was a Fish Eaters tread on the topic 2 - 3 years ago or so).  I'll set that up on Gaudete Sunday and perhaps put a wreath on the door.
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