Finally, all the gifts are wrapped and the tree is up...and we're about ready to call it a night.
Yes, believe it or not...the tree didn't go up until late this evening. We didn't even get the thing until Sunday, and it remained outside until the night of Christmas Eve.
Are we procrastinators? Trying to save a bunch of money by getting one of the trees they desperately give away at the end of the season? Nope. Though I must confess the cost savings are nice, we're above all simply trying to draw a very bright line distinction between Advent and Christmas. We're sick of all the stores putting Christmas decorations up on November 1st, and playing Christmas music beginning Thanksgiving weekend, and then taking everything down on December 26th. For years now, we've been trying to carve out in our own lives a "space" for Advent and a completely separate "space" for Christmas, without getting the two confused.
During Advent, each night before dinner we light candle(s) on an Advent wreath and sing the first verse of "O Come O Come Emanuel" before saying grace and eating. The kids move Mary and Joseph one step closer to the stable on their special Advent calendar. There are no Christmas decorations or music of any kind; this is a time of preparation, not celebration.
Then, on Christmas Eve, everything switches. The tree goes up, the nativity scene goes up, and the advent wreath/candles/calendar all go back in the box. We decorate the tree, put gifts under it --- and then leave all the Christmas decorations up until the Baptism of the Lord in January.
It was Mrs Yeoman Farmer who suggested we begin these traditions, several years ago, and I am grateful that she initiated them. It's wonderful having a real Advent and a real Christmas, with each one observed in its own special way.
The bottom line: don't be afraid to be countercultural. It's a great way to live. Especially at this time of year.