1. Religion & Spirituality
Scott P. Richert

Reader Question: Putting Up the Christmas Tree

By November 28, 2008

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A reader writes:
When am I supposed to put up my Christmas tree? And when do I take it down? I am told that one should never leave one's Christmas tree up longer than 12 days after Christmas Day--why and where does this practice come from?
It seems that every year, stores put up their Christmas decorations earlier and earlier, and more people are following suit. A few blocks from my house, someone had put up a Christmas tree before Thanksgiving! It's hard to imagine how the tree will survive until Christmas Day--and I'd bet that it will be on the curb on December 26.

When should we put up our Christmas tree? The answer has to do with the proper understanding of the relationship between Advent and Christmas.

Advent is not the "Christmas season," but a period of preparation for Christmas. If we had a friend who started celebrating his birthday four weeks in advance, we'd think him a bit odd (at best). Yet every year, that's how most Christians (at least in the United States) celebrate Christmas. Then, when Christmas Day finally arrives, they can't wait to get it over with.

And yet, on Christmas Day, the Christmas season has only just begun! The twelve days of Christmas start on Christmas Day, and they end on Epiphany (January 6). Traditionally, Catholics put up the Christmas tree--and all the Christmas decorations--on Christmas Eve. They then kept them up throughout the twelve days of Christmas, and took them down on January 7.

For more details, see When Should You Put Up Your Christmas Tree? and When Should You Take Down Your Christmas Tree?

But what should we do during Advent, if we're not celebrating Christmas all month long? We should spend Advent the way that the Church intends us to spend it--in prayer and preparation for the coming of Christ. For some ideas on how to do so, see Celebrating Advent.

If we begin to celebrate both Advent and Christmas as they are meant to be celebrated, we won't cheat ourselves; in fact, we'll still be celebrating Christmas a week into the New Year, when everyone else has returned to their everyday lives.

If you have a question that you would like to have featured in our Friday "Reader Questions" series, send me an e-mail at catholicism.guide@about.com. Be sure to put "QUESTION" in the subject line, and please note whether you'd like me to address it privately or on the Catholicism blog.

December 2, 2008 at 11:57 am
(1) Edil says:

Where I live the XMAS season is not over after The Epiphany/Three Kings Day.This last day is rhe one reserved for the children.The day before they prepare boxes with food and water for the camels and the 3 maggi.There are big feasts that are called Rosarios de Reyes and they sing this promesas with beatiful music,the kids must go to bed early so that the Three Kings can visit and leave the presents.
Ussualy on XMAS Day there are small token presents for the children while the are presents for the adults.On XMAS day the whole family go to a beatiful mass Where everyboby sings to the holy BABY .

December 2, 2008 at 12:18 pm
(2) Nancy says:

A couple of years ago I purchased two strings of purple outdoor lights. I put them up each Advent; we add multicolored lights just before Christmas. We put up our tree the weekend of Gaudete Sunday and take it down after Epiphany.

The only drawback…most people think the purple lights are in support of the Baltimore Ravens!

November 2, 2012 at 3:46 pm
(3) Angel says:

I never take my tree down – i just dress it to match the season – ie: snow & icy decorations for winter, hearts & stuff for valentines, eggs & bunnies @ easter, rubber rings and cossies for holiday season, Gold leaves and fir cones for fall,
witches etc at halloween then back to xmas decorations for christmas. Easy peasy,

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