Is it wrong to decorate for Christmas during Advent?


OK–I have researched this topic in the old threads, but have not found a satisfactory answer. Here is my dilema…I usually decorate for Christmas the day or weekend after Thanksgiving. I grew up without any emphasis on Advent, though it was always meaningful to me. Now that I have two young children (6 and 4 on Monday), I want to do the right thing, and I am simply not sure if it is OK to decorate for Christmas this early. I definitely plan to focus more on the meaning of Advent and incorporate some crafts and decorations for the season. However, I was still planning to decorate with all of my usual decorations for Christmas (and we do enjoy the fun of Santa here). I probably sound silly asking, but is this wrong? Should I ONLY focus on Advent until very close to Christmas, or is it alright to do both? What do your families do?

Thank you in advance for your replies!:smiley:



We usually decorate a week or two before Christmas, but still observe Advent. We keep an Advent wreath, and we do not put baby Jesus into the manger until Christmas Eve, for example.
One time when my kids were smaller, we had Mary and Joseph on a trek to the manger scene, through our house. We moved them a little closer each day until the baby was born.

I think it is okay to have both - the time before Christmas is a waiting period and the decorations remind us of that. Just keep the idea of Advent in the forefront in the weeks before Christmas.

Of course, we keep our decoration up throughout the entire Christmas season - we take them down after Epiphany.


I think it’s fine to do that. In my house (before I got married - with my parents), we started out after Thanksgiving and gradually went closer and closer to Christmas, not so much just because of Advent, but b/c with more children and then homeschooling, we just didn’t have time til later. So, now we do it the week before and it just works out that way.

My husband and I will probably decorate a little, but not put up the tree and ornaments til around Christmas. I think the main thing for me is that it stays up til the Epiphany - since I think that is what makes me sad more than decorating during Advent. I hate the fact that most people consider Christmas to end on the 25th, instead of just beginning like it does! :slight_smile:


We bring the tree into the house sometime during December and then we decorate the tree on Christmas Eve…the nativity scene also goes out then (minus baby jesus)…he (baby jesus) is placed on Dec.25th.
then it all comes down within 2 weeks:)


We start decorating as soon as the guest leave on Thanksgiving evening. It takes me a long time to get everything done. We have several advent items that we try to highlight until Christmas eve. For example, we have two Advent wreaths, a hanging Advent calendar etc. I don’t put the Baby Jesus in any of the nativities until Christmas eve after midnight Mass and the three Kings are out but set apart from the manger.

I do not take anything down until Jan. 6th and leave the nativities out until Feb. 3.


Thank you for the responses! I am feeling better already!:smiley:



I think it’s important to say that this isn’t even a matter of ‘right’ versus ‘wrong’ or ‘OK’ versus ‘not OK’.

It’s more a matter of what you want to teach your children.

I personally don’t want to burn out on the decorating and celebrating before Christmas and I didn’t want my children to either. We’ve tried to emphasize that up to Christmas we are planning and starting on Christmas Eve we are reaping the benefits of that planning.

I went to a Catholic school and as a result I got a good dose of Advent via the Jesse trees and advent wreaths we had there. But my children didn’t go to Catholic schools when they were young so I figured I had to do a bit extra to make up for it.


I guess my problem is that I am feeling overwhelmed with the need to bring the true meaning of Christmas into my home. When I read the activities for advent on the Catholic Culture website, it makes my heart ache. These activities were not a part of my childhood (and actually, the sources for many of the books date back as far as the 1930’s and 1950’s), but I can see how they would bring a family closer and be a beautiful part of the year. The thing is, no one that I know would celebrate like this. Christmas celebrations begin the moment Thanksgiving ends, and it is over on Dec. 26th. Advent is not discussed, and all festivities center around Christmas itself. It feels very lonely when I think about all of this, and even my own family will probably think I have become a nut if I change how advent and Christmas are celebrated. I think it would be a whole lot easier for me if I had other people nearby to share the two seasons with, especially once Dec. 25th is over. I don’t know a single family that celebrates beyond the 25th. Ughhh…all of this is really getting me down today. Thanks for “listening.”



We always had an advent wreath growing up and every night after dinner, my mother would light the candle (or candles, depending on the week) and we would say the rosary around it. Starting on December 16th we used to say a Christmas novena and starting on the 17th we also said special prayers and Bible readings for the “Golden Nights”.

We also had a "Christkindl " during Advent which was wonderful fun.

Other things we did include:
change the family altar colours to purple,
display a statue of St. John the Baptist,
have an empty crib with Mary and Joseph slowly making their way towards it (as small children we loved moving Mary and Joseph a little closer each day and after Christmas we did the same with the 3 Wise Men),
we hung Christmas decorations and put up the Christmas tree on St. Nicholas’ Day but didn’t light any lights until Christmas Eve,
we bought a large white candle, got it blessed, put it in a beautifully decorated bowl on the window sill and lit it on Christmas Eve and kept it lit until Jan 7th. We also used this candle for evening prayers during the Christmas season.

On Christmas Eve, we never ate meat but had seafood instead. It was delicious! My father used read us a story, usually “When The Animals Talk” By Rusty Calhoun. We put the lights on the tree, put a Christmas Candle in the window and then the youngest child carried the Baby Jesus to our crib. We went to Mass at midnight and again on Christmas morning. We opened all our gifts when we came back from Mass except one which we kept wrapped until Epiphany.
After Christmas Day we continued to celebrate the Christmas season by remembering different feasts during this time such as:
St Stephen’s Day Dec 26th. We ate spiced beef and sang “Good King Wenceslaus” before dinner. After dinner we would visit our deacon’s house and thank him for all his help during the year and give him a small gift.
Also , the 3 Kings used to “appear” and start making their way to the crib. We used to move them closer to the crib each day till they finally arrived on Jan 6th.

December 28th we celebrated Childermas (the feast of the Holy Innocents). The children in the family choose the food for the day but we always had some red food (to remember these children were the first martyrs), usually strawberries or raspberies.
We also started the “Novena to the Magi” said every evening around the Christmas candle.

January 6th we celebrated Ephipany also called Little Christmas or Women’s Christmas. We usually went to Mass and after Mass, my father would bless the house (occasionally we would invite one of the priests to dinner and he would bless the house for us). We would open our last Christmas gift too. On this day women, especially mothers, do no work so my father, brother and other male members of the family did the house work and cook dinner. Men also gave adult female relatives small presents to thank them for all the hard work they do during the year.
We had a special cake with a coin hidden in it and whoever found the coin was the “king” or “queen” for the day. We moved the 3 kings to the manger and sang “We 3 kings of Orient are”. That night or on Jan 5th (12th night)we used to look for Orion in the sky because the 3 stars that make up his belt are called the Magi. When we were teenagers I remember reading “The Journey of the Magi” by T. S. Elliot on Jan 5th.
On the evening of Jan 6th we used to choose a new patron saint for the year. My mother had typed up a long list of different saints’ names, cut them into slips and we would choose one from a bowl. We used to look up about that saint and then tell the rest of our family what we had found. Sometimes this would continue for several weeks, depending on the saints we got.

We took all decorations down on Jan 7th except for the crib which stayed up till Feb 2nd.



Wow–what a rich and beautiful advent season you had as a child! You were very blessed to have parents who celebrated the true meaning of the season. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful traditions!




I started a thread about this a few weeks ago that you might be interested in. Geroidin gave fantastic ideas! I don’t know how to link to it, but it’s called “How does your family prepare for advent?” I think the most recent post to it was within the last week.

There were lots of responses with lots of great traditions and ideas. I think we don’t use Advent as the preparatory season it was intended to be, we tend to just follow the lead of our culture and go straight for the Christmas decorations, sometimes as early as Nov. 1 !

In any case, IMO, Christmas is more special if we use advent to prepare for His coming, which includes acts of charity, penance and sacrifice.

We are going back to the older traditions in our family and observing the fasting and abstinence associated with advent, as well as trying to do more charitable acts, etc.

Have a blessed advent!


I agree…WOW! I loved all these ideas and plan to use some this year with my own kids. I’m on my way downstairs to remove all but Mary and Joseph from the nativity. I will slide them to each end of the mantle so the kids can move them closer to the center. Thanks Gearoidin!


I wouldn’t worry about what is wrong or right or is ok or not ok. I would take a step back, figure out the exact themes you want to teach during this time and figure out what kind of environment they will be in. Figure out what you want to do from that. There are all kinds of feasts, memorials, and all kinds of Catholic traditions to bring in, some of them brought up by Gearoidin.

If the kids are going to also get all kinds of Santa and Christmas messages like that, just bring that in too. Just use it like Mary. Lots of people think us Catholics worship Mary independent of God, but really we honor Mary with the understanding that all the honor comes from God, and that she never points to herself, but to God. If you bring in Santa and that ‘Christmas Spirit’ just use it to point to God. You can then help neutralize the materialism that some will bring it into. Santa points to God & the gifts point to God.


You will never be sorry for going with your heart and celebrating the season in the most meaningful way possible. Your children will cherish the meaningful richness that it brings into their lives.

My family “rethought” the holidays many years ago, and things have only gotten better! Now the holidays mean something more than what the TV and stores say they do. We have some uncommon but fulfilling rituals that help us understand what and why we are celebrating, they add meaning to our lives.



Thanks Gearoidin! I’ve printed out your post, I think its wonderful!

I grew up in a nominally Catholic home and always felt that the kids that went to Catholic school had an advantage (my kids go to Catholic school :smiley: ). I always felt there should be more to Advent but was always too caught up in the secular traditions to do anything about it.

We usually put the tree up the weekend after Thanksgiving, but by New Year’s Day I’m ready to have it out of the house. So I’m planning on putting it up later (maybe the week before Christmas) and taking it down after Ephiphany.


Thanks, everyone, for the great responses and encouragement. May God bless all of you!



I can see the concern here, especially as, in many homes, Christmas is simply preparing for the morning gifts, not the birth of Jesus. However, its hard to deny that the whole process of decorating, preparing the house, baking cookies, etc. puts the children (and usually the entire family!) in really high spirits for the weeks leading to Christmas Day. That is, in my opinion, a healthy backdrop for emphasizing Advent and the preparation of the birth of the Christ child. Advent need not be some solemn months, but rather a joyous, festive time :smiley:

I suppose the balance between the two (preparing the festivities and preparing for the birthday of Jesus) is one which parents will have to find themselves. I predict one day I will be very happy to turn up the Christmas music come the start of December, and make no secret that cookies will become a staple side dish to every breakfats I eat :wink: However, I am also confident that at the same time I will rightfully focus on Advent and the nativity story and the coming of Jesus.

Again, its a balance. I would totally disagree, however, that it is wrong to decorate early. As with most actions, its not the decorating that would ever be wrong but rather if it distracted from the children ever knowing the birthday of Jesus Christ. I’m confident you’ll find the balance. After all, there is nothing quite like having the chance to bring your childhood traditions AND Jesus into your new and growing family. :thumbsup:


Wow, that is beautiful, but overwhelming! I am a convert and this will be my first Christmas as a mommy. I don’t even know when St.Nicholas day is:o . Last year, hubby and I had an Advent wreath and said prayers, but that was it. I want Lily to grow up with beautiful traditions like yours, but I don’t know where to start. Maybe you could write “Advent for Dummies”, lol.



Heavens to Betsy! Advent by its very definition is preparation for arrival! How ever would you have things ready by Christmas Eve and the start of Christmas if you did not start now?:confused: Especially anything to do with cookies, lights, or things on the walls…


I asked this question because on CAF and on another board I have heard several times that some families believe it is important to wait until as late as Christmas Eve to decorate and put up their trees in order to give Advent the attention it deserves. Since I got married nearly 11 years ago, we have decorated early–right after Thanksgiving, and after reading these other posts, I was concerned that I may be doing the wrong thing. Thank you for responding, but a bit more sensitivity would have been appreciated. I truly am trying to do the right thing for my family.


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