When I was a kid, I loved preparing for Christmas almost as much as Christmas itself. From avidly combing over the Sears and JC Penny catalogs to make sure my parents knew everything I wanted (which was just about everything) to digging out the Christmas albums we had on vinyl, I loved it all, but I especially loved decorating.
My mother was a retired elementary teacher, which is one reason why we had so many Christmas decorations: for years she had decorated both a home and a classroom. I suppose a lot of the decorations we had were a bit odd, in retrospect, precisely because they were originally intended for a classroom. Like, a hundred Christmas-themed things that were laminated that I hung on every pane of glass in the house. We had a giant door-sized Santa Clause thing that hung on the door behind our Christmas tree every year.
And then there was the tree itself. For most of my childhood, we had an absolutely god-awful fake tree from (I assume) the '70s. It was green, but not any natural green. It made no pretense that it might have been a live tree of any species. Fake fake fake. And I loved it. It was soft. It was familiar. And what did I know? Nothing but that tree. I loved hanging the lights and the ornaments and had all sorts of ideas about how best to decorate the tree. Some years I tried new things--all white lights! one color of garlands and ornaments!--but most years it was pretty comfortably the same as every other year, a ritual of recreating that holiday ambiance and feeling.
Our nativity scene was old, kind of perpetually dirty and shabby, and--I dimly felt--better represented the idea of being born in a barn than any crisp, clean manger scene could manage. Plus a nativity scene is kind of right in a kid's sweet spot, being basically a playset. Castle Greyskull with different characters. I remember taking great pride at one point of my childhood in being more theologically accurate and setting up the shepherds and their sheep at some distance from the manger itself until Christmas, when they could finally come ooh and ahh over the kid, while the wise men were off in another room, gradually moving closer, waiting for their turn on Epiphany.
I'm less into decorating these days--seems like a lot of work. Fortunately my kids are taking on more of it. Our 11 year old (T) in particular was ready to start decorating for Christmas as soon as Halloween was over, and with L down for the count this year, T got to take the lead. Granted, this meant a lot of early enthusiasm that petered out before the decorating was completed. But she got the tree done, and my wife has a great view of it:
Of course, a great view actually means that she's spending all day looking at what a haphazard job the kids did spreading out the ornaments and wishing she could get up to fix them, but so it goes.