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.