It was sort of a non-issue growing up. When my mom was ready, she'd go up in the attic and we'd pull out the Christmas decorations; tree ornaments, garlands, plastic elves (my favorite!), felt reindeer, and so on and put them up. Just did it. Maybe a week or two before Christmas. We'd get our tree from the high school's Christmas tree sale where old Mr. Radigan would take our money and offer us coffee. That was about 2 weeks before Christmas. All was calm, all was bright.
Then it seemed that priests and sisters and lay minsters began to say with the DOGMATIC AUTHORITY OF STUFF THAT THEY HEARD IN A WORKSHOP: "NO CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS BEFORE CHRISTMAS!" The offense they'd take when they'd see a creche or a reindeer in a church office would throw them into a liturgical rant unlike (seriously) any they have at any other time of year! Even some priests said, "NO CHRISTMAS PARTIES! WE CALL THEM 'ADVENT PARTIES'". When you take the "Christmas" out of "Christmas" party, even though it's all the same thing, it still sucks a little bit more.
So anyway, I saw this picture today of the Pope. Today. The Pope.
Pope Benedict XVI leads his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 14. The hall's Nativity scene was handcrafted in Mexico. The Christmas tree is from Ukraine. (CNS/Paul Haring)