When to set up the Christmas decorations......

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.....from an article on Zenit (HT to Ellyn at Oblique House):

ROME, NOV. 29, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

Q: What would you consider an appropriate time during Advent to put up Christmas trees, ornaments, lights and other decorations in churches and Christian homes? -- B.O., Lewistown, Pennsylvania

A: This question is simple only in appearance because customs surrounding the celebration of Christmas vary widely among different cultures.

From a strictly liturgical standpoint the preparations for receiving the Christ Child intensify from Dec. 17 onward and this is probably a good time to set up the parish crib, except for the image of the child, which is often added just before Midnight Mass in more or less solemn fashion.

Other parishes prefer to set up the crib on Christmas Eve. There are no official rites regarding this widespread custom.

In those places that use the Advent wreath, it is placed on the first Sunday of Advent. The Book of Blessings issued by the U.S. bishops' conference contains a simple rite for blessing the Advent wreath which may profitably be used.

Dec. 17 or the nearest Sunday might also be a good date to set up Christmas trees and other decorations in Christian homes, but it really depends on local custom and tradition. It is unnecessary, however, to fall under the spell of commercial enterprises which tend to anticipate the Christmas season, sometimes even before Advent begins. (I added the emphasis!)

Because some Christmas decorations have often lost their original religious meaning, churches should be rather circumspect about employing them and should do so with great discretion. If used at all, these decorations are best set up on Christmas Eve so as to respect the integrity of the Advent season.

Christmas trees are preferably located outside the sanctuary and church proper, and are best left in vestibules or church grounds. This has been the practice in St. Peter's Square from the time of Pope John Paul II.

As far as possible, decorations should be religiously themed, leaving plastic reindeer, sugar canes and Santa Clauses in the local shopping mall or at least within the confines of the parish hall for children's events.

Within the church proper, apart from the crib, Christmas may be evoked by using, for example, traditional poinsettias, holly and other traditional elements according to the culture.

As I mentioned, different cultures celebrate Christmas in various ways.

In some countries, such as Venezuela, many people live the novena before Christmas by attending a special "Cockcrow" Mass celebrated at 5 a.m. each day.

In Mexico, during this same period, family and neighbors often take turns in hosting a "posada," a procession in which the group goes from house to house singing a traditional song in which St. Joseph and Mary request, and are refused, hospitality until finally they are festively welcomed at the last home, which has prepared snacks and traditional games for all.


This is interesting to me, because we have an annual discussion of when to put up our tree. Our priest thinks Christmas Eve is the appropriate time, but part of that is colored by the fact that he isn't a mom in a family trying to get everything ready. We tried that a couple of years, but it left far too much to do too late. And we weren't able to turn it into the little family party that it had always been before. Then we tried the Sunday before Christmas--and that was better. Please note, we leave our tree up until Epiphany--on January 6th--lights shining brightly into the night long after our whole neighborhood has hauled their trees to the curb. We do have an artificial tree, so dryness is not a problem for us.

The 17th seems perfect to me. But we'll make FrA happy by not turning on the lights until after mass on Christmas Eve.

Oh, and last year, we kept our nativity set out until Candlemas in February. I became convinced of that when I went on pilgrimage to Rome in late January, and every single church still had theirs out. And St. Peter's life-size set was still in the courtyard.


I like Father's suggestion of December 17, and probably not least because I'm a Gregorian chant nut. I envision a little service in the evening after everything had been set up; if not the lights of the tree itself, then one's advent wreath could be lit, and the assembled folks could sing the Magnificat with the antiphon O Sapientia.

i'm still trying to convince smockdaddy of father's original suggestion and to let us spell "DEATH" with the really big colorful christmas lights on the garage for the first week of advent, "JUDEGEMENT" - the second week, "HELL" - the third, and "HEAVEN" the last, but to no avail.

we do our tree on the 21st since we have bdays on the 19th & 20th (i can not believe jeric is 7 this year). when we are at moms for chrismas eve (switch off every other year) decorating & lighting the tree is part of the fun of the day!

Smock, we wanted to make Fr A a sign with lights that spelled out each word.

But Heaven is third week, Hell is fourth.

Anyway, I think I've figured out how to do it. Next year what say we make a set for Fr A? We just need plywood, a drill, light strings (but we gotta find purple and pink lights--the purple we could probably find, but pink?), and a staple gun......

I grew up in a decorate the tree on Christmas eve family (which my father thought was being tremendously liberal since 'Santa' brought the tree during the night in his childhood.) I didn't realize what a toll this takes on the mom until I had children of my own. And when people in our neighborhood are putting up their trees before Thanksgiving our kids do feel like odd ducks from a very odd family. We still put the tree up quite close to Christmas...with the added blessing of being able to get a decent discount at the local garden center. (Ten years ago we didn't even buy the tree until Christmas eve...that was the year my hubby h ad major surgery in November and everything was done on a wing and a prayer. It was a little chaotic...Luckily we didn't have dogs at the time, so we could just drop what we were doing, make it to Mass and then come home and finish.)

About the inflatables...I like them in spite of myself. I was just hinting during a Menards' ad about how charming the inflatable snow globes are. The kids did give me an inflatable leprachaun for my birthday last March...maybe I could put him on the lawn and dress him up like an elf. :)

We put up our tree on "pink candle Sunday" as the kids call it. Our neighborhood is decorated to the hilt before the Thanksgiving turkey is cold, so this is quite countercultural in our neck of the woods....

we put up our tree sometime after Dec 15 ( our eldest child's birthday) and leave it up until Epiphany ( the real one on January 6). Some years that has meant a real scramble to even find a tree, and living in the frozen northeast bringing the tree home is not as easy as it was on the West Coast. The tree is usually in the house a few days before we manage to get it lit and decorated - and we have to cat proof it too. Our house lights are hung year round but we renew the burnt out ones sometime in December - and soon we will string the lights on the outdoor hedge (hopefully before the snow gets in the way - have I mentioned that I despise snow?).
I need to clear off my mantel and put up the winter stuff (not religious, just seasonal) - soon, sometime soon.
Our Advent wreath comes out of it's box the first Sunday of Advent, without fail. I usually have to move it a few times until I figure out the best place to keep the cats from jumping on the table with it and knocking it down.
I usually put up the creches (I have two) around now. I always need to have a witness who can help me remember where I hid the Baby Jesus this year (He doesn't come out until Christmas Eve). But before I can put up the creches, I need to clear all the DVDs and CDs off the top of the cabinet where they have taken up residence. And the wise guys end up way away from the stable - and they get closer every day until by epiphany they are at the creche. I like the idea of keeping the creche up till Candlemas.
What I really need to get cracking on is making fruitcakes and plum pudding. No matter that only two of us eat them! Oh, and hard sauce as well......

The rest of you sound so much better organsied tha me. I do have an Advent Wreath but the candles are all pink, purple were hard to come by. I have put the wreath on the door and my daughter and I will put the tree up tomorrow.
My knitted nativity set which I see a lot of other sets in Australia as many must have been inspired by the pattern book is till in search of a box to put them in as a stable. Joseph has a list, Mary looks ricketty, the 3 wise men look rather tipsy and the sheep have footrot. I still have to knit the two shepherds and a donkey. I doubt if this will ever happen.

I have noticed that most churches here have a creche already set up. Jesus is included in the full round up as then it is done. This I suspect as mothers do much of this decorating and Xmas eve is not a time to do it if you have kids and all the rest. Some have Christmas trees as giving trees for the local St Vincent de Paul Christmas appeal in the local area. My husband was pleasantly suprised to see that our local mall had a creche so it is not just Santa and elves.

I am also not that keen on inflatables MamaT but they are bcoming fashionable over here along with lighting up your house. This trend I wonder if we imported from you. My only concession to this is a Santa and Xmas tree siloutte in our top floor windows but one neightbour several doors down has the whole house lit up. This looks remarkably good as we have crystal clear nights at present with a crescent moon. I am glad we have summer for our Christmass season as I don't know how you bear snow in so many parts of the US and you cope with two major festivities so close together with Thanksgiving and Xmas hot on its heels.

Many families keep their decorations up until Ephipany due to the 12 days of Christms tradtion we inherited from the British. A popular folk suepstition is that taking them down before the January is bad luck.

So refreshing to read that I am not the only Mother in America that thinks this way. My sister sends out her cards the day after Thanksgiving and I remind her every year that Advent has not even begun yet. I am trying to teach my children, as I taught many second grade classes, that Advent is a time of waiting and preparing and not a time of Santa and getting. Everywhere we go they are bombarded with the commercialism and they are still so young... I fear it will only get worse! Before kids we put the tree up on C'mas Eve but it is just way too hectic with three toddlers. So, now we put it up the last Sunday of Advent and leave it up until well into January. (At least until after La Befana leaves her broom at the door.) I remember hearing once that the decorations should stay up until the Baptism of Jesus which is in mid January.



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This page contains a single entry by MamaT published on December 2, 2005 4:50 PM.

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