According to the Church guidelines as stated here in the "Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy" concerning Christmastide:
Popular piety, precisely because it can intuit the values inherent in the mystery of Christ's birth, is called upon to cooperate in preserving the memory of the manifestation of the Lord, so as to ensure that the strong religious tradition surrounding Christmas is not secularized by consumerism or the infiltration of various forms of neopaganism.
...preserving the memory of the manifestation of the Lord, so as to ensure that the strong religious tradition surrounding Christmas is not SECULARIZED by CONSUMERISM or the infiltration of various forms of NEOPAGANISM. hmmmmmmmmmm
What would Christmas look like if we celebrated it the way it should be celebrated? Lets imagine:
With Halloween behind us, we have nearly a month to enjoy the leaves turning brilliant colors and tumbling to the ground in big piles for jumping. Harvest-themed wreaths and garden flags adorning the front door. Apple cider, spicier meals, that nip in the air, camping, and/or car drives on Sunday afternoons to the country. A few weeks later, plans for the Thanksgiving meal and gatherings. Thanksgiving festivities begin with grocery store sales, hayrides, and traveling to family.
After Thanksgiving, reeling from our family gatherings, charity work, large meals, and return trips home, we resume our regularly scheduled tasks for a few weeks until December. The first week of Advent arrives and we dress our front doors with purple or royal blue ribboned wreaths, get the Advent candles out, and begin the process of preparing/waiting/embracing life for the next few weeks.
As Christmas eve approaches, we begin to make purchases of a few simple gifts to loved ones in response to Christ's gift to us Christmas day. These gifts are tokens of our affection to the receiver, like baked goodies, homemade items, useful store-bought things for them to enjoy. No lists were made, no dollar amount pre-determined, no "big gift and little gift" decisions, just from the heart choices.
Simple decorations are put out like the stable and animals, evergreen, poinsettias, and holy family pictures. A tree is purchased a few days before Christmas eve and decorated with lights and garland.
Prayers at mealtime accompany the lighting of the Advent candles for the week each night and a door is opened on the Advent calendar to reveal a picture of a symbol of Christmastide and Christ's gift to the world.
Christmas eve arrives and the purple decorations go away replaced by golds, reds, greens, and silver ribbons, lights, and garland boasting of the arrival of the King child! Midnight Mass is magical in the music and carols sung, candles flickering, and the poinsettias sparkling near the altar. As the baby is placed in the manger, we all draw a deep breath of relief and thanksgiving for this amazing gift our Creator has given us.
As we all go home with smiles on our faces, love in the air, and peaceful dreams, we hold hands with those we love, greet those we haven't spoken to, forgive those we need to forgive, and mend hearts of those we have crossed during the months preceding. We exchange our gifts, receive gifts, and share good tidings of peace and joy to each other.
For the next few weeks, we share meals, stories, memories, and prayers during the season of Christmastide. We follow the shepherds as they find a next table or bookshelf to climb to getting ever nearer to their destination, the manger to find the child. We send cards to faraway loved ones, wishing them well for the new year.
Epiphany Sunday arrives and we celebrate the three kings' arrival with their gifts of gold, francesence, and murr and wind down our Christmas season.
The celebrations of life, the gift of salvation, faithful cooperation by Mary, and the trusting Joseph and the 3 wise men, the sacrifice of the holy innocents bring to us the true purpose of the season. Not once did we get into a tangle with fellow shoppers for the same "last" toy in the store, watch so many Christmas specials and listen to endless Christmas music that wears a soul down within a few weeks so that by the time the actual holiday has arrived...Christmas eve, most are fairly exhausted, waiting to take all the decorations down that have been up for 4 or 5 weeks.