In 2008, prompted by a thread over at WDTPRS to "keep" Advent as a penitential and preparatory season in anticipation of Christmas, I began establishing my own traditions that would do just that.
Here's how it works.
I have finally created a nice Advent wreath (artificial greens, as alas I’m an apartment dweller and don’t wish to risk the fire hazard) with the traditional candles (three purple, one rose).
A tree (again, artificial) goes up with white lights, but instead of Christmas ornaments, the tree is decorated with purple ornaments and a few rose-colored ones. Some of them have gold decoration on them. The tree is topped with a large purple bow. I also have a swag of greens with white lanterns, pinecone lights and a big purple bow hanging over the chest with the Nativity set arranged on it (in stages, which is explained below).
I abstain from listening to Christmas music at home, limiting myself to the few recordings of Advent music I own (a recording of the Advent Procession from St. James' Episcopal Cathedral, Toronto, and J. Michael Thompson and the Schola Cantorum of St. Peter the Apostle singing Advent Lessons and Carols, called, "Redeemer of the Nations, Come").
On Gaudete Sunday I'll make my Christmas cookies and write and post my Christmas cards.
On the morning of Christmas Eve, the purple and rose ornaments will come down and the Christmas decorations will go up on the tree, over the door and elsewhere in the apartment.
There are some who have a tradition of putting up the various elements of the Nativity in stages: the stable goes up on Advent I; the animals go in on Advent II; the shepherds on Advent III; the Angel on Advent IV; Mary and Joseph on Christmas Eve morning, and the bambino on Christmas Eve when I get home from Midnight Mass.
Of course all of this would be for naught if prayer didn't figure into the picture. I'll be the first to admit that I have for some time been in a bit of a spiritual "dry place", but I have resolved to regain my spiritual bearings during this month of preparation.
Here are some pictures of the tree and the Nativity arrangement. (The picture of the wreath was taken last year.)