A lot of people get indignant about store Christmas displays going up right after Halloween. However, for a lot of reasons this makes sense. In the Eastern Catholic Church (and Orthodox), we begin our journey to Christ's Nativity celebration on November 15. This is 40 days before the Feast of Christmas. For 40 days we fast, pray, offer works of mercy and give alms all in the name of Christ, and preparing our souls to be present at the celebration of Christ's birth. Upon Christmas we begin merrymaking and we do not quit until 40 days later. The preparation and celebration periods are similar to that of Easter.
So, as an Eastern Christian, I say prepare your homes and your hearts. We cannot prepare if we are not reminded everywhere we go. This does not mean we should get all decked out for Christmas immediately. It means hang a wreath to remember the Eternal life God promises, but do not hang the merry lights which remind us Christ is with us. We will save the lights for the Christmas season. Set out the Nativity displays but do not place the baby for whom we are waiting to be born. Go ahead and take advantage of the pre-Christmas sales and give, give, give. But do not open one's own gifts until Christmas. St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, is our greatest example of one who displays the true spirit of Christmas. He spent his life fasting for the feasts and giving to others.
What I get indignant about is being invited to a bunch of Christmas parties before Christmas with lots of lavish feasts and ridiculous menial gift exchanges without a single nod to the poor, needy, sick, imprisoned. I hate to walk the neighborhood the week after the Christmas season has begun and see the Christmas trees pitched out beside the road; and all the Christmas lights come down. If one pitches out Christmas immediately after it is begun, we ARE left with that empty, consumerist feeling. On the other hand, if we celebrate Christmas like the East, we may enjoy the merrymaking and the life and light Christ gave this world for longer and with much love until we begin the next fast.
The Four Fasts: Preparing for Holiday Grace
St. Nicholas' Feast