Welcome to Advent 2007, everyone. We put up the Christmas tree at our house...and the Nativity set (at the foot of the tree in the photo above, with Mary and Joseph waiting for the baby Jesus)...and the Advent wreath. But in the spirit of Advent, we are waiting to put up the lights and Christmas decorations until Christmas actually arrives.
We began this tradition last year. We set up the Christmas tree on the first day of Advent, and then explain that we are waiting to decorate it because the decorations symbolize the beauty and joy of the birth of Jesus. However, because we wait for Jesus in hope, just as we light another candle every week of Advent, we also add another string of lights (three blue, one pink for Gaudate Sunday) every week. That's why you'll notice one string of blue lights in the photo above. We will decorate the tree completely on Christmas Eve (adding some additional lights as well), and keep it up throughout the Christmas season.
Although our parental instincts warned that the kids might throw a fit at not getting to decorate the tree right away, doing it this way actually seems to heighten their excitement and interest. It also teaches them the virtue of patience, which is one of the more handy virtues to have around.