If you were to judge by what goes on at shopping centres, the Christmas season starts months in advance. But what should we be doing at home? When should we put up the tree? When is it time to decorate the house with lights? And, perhaps more importantly, when should we be taking everything down?
We usually try to put up our tree and decorations on the first weekend in December, just because to us December means Christmas and the weekend's the most convenient time. Everything comes down around New Year's, because it feels like we've moved into a new phase of the year (or the next year, really), but I'd probably be disappointed if everyone's Christmas lights come down this early - I want time to appreciate them!
Personally I don't like to put up any decorations before December 1st. I think if it drags on for too long it doesn't feel as special. Back when I worked in retail all the decorations being up for so long put me off Christmas decorations altogether for a while and don't get me started on the music!
Since we have a real tree we only put it up about a week before Christmas because otherwise it would wilt too early. We take it down within a week or two after Christmas before all the needles fall off and I take down the rest of the decorations then.
We also aim to decorate the house and put up the tree at the beginning of December. All Christmas things usually come down as soon as we can after New Years. Party time is over and time to focus on the year ahead and get cracking on those New Year's resolutions!
I really very much Like Vanessa M's answer: up first weekend of December and down at New Year's - the time for a new year: if you ant to be a bit ore traditional - the "12 days of Christmas" comes to mind - putting up the tree 12 days before Christmas may be a good compromise, and down by the New Year: Happy Christmas to you all and may peace be with us all in the New Year.
In Adelaide we have the Christmas Pageant ?Parade early November, 9th this year, so tree and decorations go up that weekend and stay till late Dec but down before the New Year unless there is a party on Dec 31. i love the lights and sparkly things and enjoy it all.
My childhood memories of a German Christmas was that in December you had an Advent wreath with 4 candles, the first of which was lit on the first Sunday, the next Sunday 2 candles were lit and so on. This was in conjunction with the Advent Calendar, which had little windows that children were only allowed to open on the correct day. (you sometimes still see these sold commercially, but the meaning of leading up to Christmas seems to be lost).
On Christmas Eve the wreath was ceremoniously burned and replaced with the Christmas tree. Children were not involved in its decoration, but had to wait till it was lit up (in those days, with wax candles and sparklers), when everyone would come out and stand around the tree singing Christmas carols.
The tree was taken down and ceremoniously burned on January 6 (Epiphany)