Why I Hate Hypocrisy, Injustice, and People Who Leave Up Christmas Decorations

Is a dead wreath the kind of message Jesus wants to send?

OK, everybody. It’s time to take down those Christmas decorations. Twelfth night came and went earlier this week. Depending on which tradition you follow, the season of Christmas ends either January 5 or January 6, which marks the Epiphany — the night the Wise Men came to visit Jesus. Some traditions refer to it as Three Kings Day.

In case you didn’t know, it is very unlucky to leave up your Christmas decorations after Twelfth night. Not to mention unsightly.

My son laughs at me because he knows I have a fetish about Christmas decorations. It makes me absolutely crazy to see people putting them up before Thanksgiving (I have been known to boycott stores that do that), and it drives me insane to see people who leave their decorations up past January 6. That is one of my top three pet peeves (the other two being hypocrisy and injustice).

I took a walk today in my neighborhood. It happened to be snowing, so it actually looked like a winter wonderland. Except for one thing: all those horrible decorations. There they were, on house after house, dead and dying brown or yellow “evergreens,” wreaths on doors, hanging branches on railings, dried up holly berries, glimpses of muddy brown trees inside houses — and outside, formerly cheery red, green, and golden bows, now dirty, wet, limp, and lifeless.

I couldn’t help thinking WWJD. What Would Jesus Do? After all, this whole celebration is one big birthday party for him. Now it’s over. If it were summer, would you leave limp, empty balloons around with half-eaten cake and pieces of ribbons and wrapping paper in the yard? Of course not. I don’t believe leaving up old decorations helps him send the message he would like to send.

Even if you are not a practicing Christian, but still observe the holiday, you know that there is a spiritual component to it. The materialism of Christmas has turned a lot of people off, believers and non-believers. But I never think of the wreaths and trees and lights and bows as part of the materialism. I think of them as a joyous display of the ritual, the tradition, the meaning behind Christmas. Christmas signifies birth and hope and newness and life. Regardless of your own faith or lack of it, the glittering lights everywhere brighten the darkness as the days grow shorter. And they are beautiful to look at.

But then, it’s over. Somehow those beautiful wreaths and trees, the pinecones and the holly, don’t look so hopeful any more. There is no more sense of expectation. They don’t represent hope. They are dying. They make me feel so sad. I want to feel happy in the New Year, not morose.

A friend of mine years ago, who was at the end stages of cancer, asked not to be sent flowers. When asked why, she said, “Because they die.” That’s how I feel about Christmas decorations after the holiday. They should come down before they die.

I once took my son, when he was very little, to a new swimming teacher at her house. Walking through her living room in July, I was shocked to see that she still had her Christmas tree up, completely decorated. Of course, it was totally dead, with brown pine needles all over the floor. “Oh,” I said. “I see you still have your tree.” “Yes,” she said. “I just love Christmas so much. I never take it down until Thanksgiving, when it’s time to put up the new one.”

That was the end of the swimming lessons.

I couldn’t take him to someone who I felt was so oblivious to the meaning of the holiday, not to mention the aesthetics. If you are a believer, the holiday is about honoring Jesus and his birth. You can’t do that with an ugly brown dead tree. In fact, it seems somehow disrespectful.

So that’s why, when my son and I happen to be driving around sometime in March and I see a pathetic, drooping, wilted, beige wreath hanging on a door with the bow flattened, and listless, broken pinecones and shriveled berries, I lose it. Much to his amusement.

“Mom,” he’ll say. “Get over it.” Sorry, Quinn. I can’t.

I’m with the 17th century poet Robert Herrick who wrote (albeit for Candlemas):

Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and mistletoe;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas Hall.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Sally Quinn
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  • Dan Connors

    Ms Quinn, In the Roman Catholic Church, “Christmas Time runs from First Vespers [Evening Prayer I] of the Nativity of the Lord up to and including the Sunday after Epiphany or after January 6” (Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the General Roman Calendar, no. 33). So, in 2015, Christmas ends for Catholics on January 11. So please don’t yell at me until January 12.

  • Judy Brandon

    Some of us find more Christmas hope in the New Year the
    an in a December filled with memories of family sadnesses. There are also Orthodox Christians who celebrate Christmas January 7.A little less judgment please.

  • Mick

    Same blogger who mocked Christians who were disturbed with a church being used by Muslims . But of course leaving up a Christmas Tree somehow is detrimental to Christianity . Good grief ..

  • Cheryl Wicks Rauscher

    Thank you for posting your thoughts. However, reasonable minds can disagree. I don’t really think that Jesus would care about decorations still being up. Why do we celebrate Christmas? It’s a question my 26 year old daughter is struggling with. We celebrate to remember that God came down to earth incarnate to save us from our sins. When should I stop celebrating that fact? I hope I never stop celebrating. If a tree reminds someone to truly act as Jesus would act and to be thankful for His sacrifice … If it reminds us to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our GOD then they should leave it up. I was going to take mine down tomorrow, but I think I have changed my mind. P.S. It is an artificial tree so it won’t turn brown and ugly but you still do not have to visit me if you don’t want to.

  • Jonathan Tobias

    I am a Russian Orthodox priest who celebrates Christmas on the Julian Calendar, which turns out to be January 7th for most people. Christmas is not a “birthday party” for Jesus: it is a liturgical festival celebrating the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. And old decorations still hanging out of season are not hypocritical. What Ms Quinn is trying to complain about might be crassness, or perhaps a lack of taste. She needs to discern the difference between an offense against her sensibilities, and an offense against her faith. The two should not be confused.

  • Toast Points

    STFU, Sally. If you don’t like it, stay home and don’t walk your neighborhood.