After much consideration, I chose today to take down our Christmas tree, the centerpiece of our living room since the day before Thanksgiving. Despite my penchant for premature decoration, to my credit, I didn’t illuminate the fake monstrosity until Santa appeared on screen at the Macy’s parade, but at that moment, I declared the holiday season officially underway.
The holiday transformation began with the tree but the complete metamorphosis took more than a few days. While I dreaded the work of digging out the Christmas decorations, I got into the groove of opening boxes of glass snowmen, battery-operated candles, Santas, and gingerbread men. Once complete, I sat back and took it all in–the heavily ornamented tree with souvenirs from our family’s life journey, the railing draped with fake boughs, and the doorways framed in sparkling “Italian” lights. I grouped items, like with like. The Santas lived on the shelves on either side of my kitchen sink. The nutcrackers stood at attention on the piano while the ever-expanding collection of gingerbread men overwhelmed the top of the pantry closet in the back room. I lined the top of the bookshelf with a ridiculous number of porcelain snowmen The result was worth the effort. My holiday home made me happy.
For weeks, I admired the arrangement of more than forty years of acquired holiday schmutz. I proudly lorded over the wintery wonderland of my design, and by mid-December, I could barely imagine the house without Christmas superimposed on my usual surroundings. As Christmas drew near, the thought of “taking Christmas down” brought tears to my eyes. My misery isn’t new. Every holiday season, I find myself dwelling on the passing of time–Christmasses, when my children were young, seemed to move slowly. At some point, time sped up and they were grown, and I became old. The end of Christmas dredges up feelings of mortality. As much as I fight against it, my melancholy robs me of some of the seasonally-prescribed joy.
I can never predict when it will happen but the moment comes every year when I decide it all has to go. Out of reverence for the holidays, I remove the decorations in stages–first the Santas, then the nutcrackers, then the gingerbread men–until only the tree remains. A hangover from my childhood dictates it must stay up until the sixth, Little Christmas, and I commit to this goal until the gnaw of normalcy gets to me. Still, once the tree comes down, Christmas and another year are over. The idea saddens me. The night before dismantling the tree, I always take a picture of the “last night,” fight back a good old cry, and I go off to bed with resolve to return my living room to pre-Thanksgiving status.
When I awoke this morning, I pushed back on the plan. A rainy Sunday suits watching multiple episodes of The Office more than dismantling the last remnants of Christmas 2021. What was the rush? With the rest of Christmas tucked away, I could think of no good reason to pack the tree and the ornaments. The finality symbolized an ending I’m not quite ready to accept.
It’s only January 2nd, and for now, the tree will stay up a little longer. My apologies to Gatsby and Fergie when I say a few more days of Christmas never hurt nobody.