It’s an age-old question that brings its own judgment – how long do you leave your Christmas decorations in place? Have you ever wondered why someone else could do this?
In Canada and other countries of the British Empire, Boxing Day is celebrated as its own special holiday, and these Christmas decorations fall and get wrapped on December 26. Even the banks are closed. With Western commercialism introducing the Christmas season seemingly earlier and earlier each year, more and more trees these days tend to come up before Thanksgiving – and even just after Halloween. Guess you can get tired and be ready to undress if the hallways have been decorated for this long – not to mention if there’s a real tree that has collapsed bare. Some traditions say it is a bad omen to let the Christmas lights come on after January 1, while some Christians celebrate Epiphany, the traditional day the wise men visited baby Jesus, it is where the 12 days of Christmas come into play, by the way. Oh yes, December 25th is just the first Christmas day ! Others who observe Candlemas wait until the end – February 2 – to decorate.
Growing up, my mom always kept our house decorated for Christmas until the Sunday after my birthday, which is the first week of January. You see, my father was the pastor of our church, and one of my aunts and several cousins went to church with us. This meant that our very large group shared Sunday lunch almost every Sunday afternoon – but especially on holidays and special Sundays. We usually celebrated my birthday the following Sunday, and Mom always wanted the house to be decorated with all the cute Christmas decorations again when our guests came to celebrate.
I’m sure when I was a kid there were probably years when life’s circumstances got in the way of my plans. There may have been years when the tree was left in place for too long and our personal boxing day was drawn closer to the end of the month. I remember being embarrassed once by kidding kid taunts saying things like, “You mean you still have your Christmas decorations in place?” Ewwwww! “I mean, come on, it wasn’t even Valentine’s Day yet!
I’m sure it didn’t have much to do with mum being a mother of four, working, picking up after all of us and just being in her forties. However, once we learned the tradition of leaving our decorations on until after Epiphany, we had a good excuse – uh, that’s raison – to leave things festive.
Now that I’m older than my mom back then and feel the fear of putting all the beauty back in a box, I have my own traditions. I definitely carried on the tradition of leaving the decorations on until after Epiphany – or the Sunday after my birthday. But now I have an even more valuable reason why my tree won’t come down before …
One of the most sacred traditions that I have started with my family is our annual Christmas tree photo. It all started on Christmas Eve 1999 when my husband asked me to unwrap a present in advance. It was an Olympus 35mm point-and-shoot with an automatic timer. I was so excited to have a camera with a timer so naturally I wanted to try it out when we got home! We were all still dressed from our party with his family earlier that evening, and I gathered my 3 year old son and husband under the tree just to try out the timer feature on my new toy. In a flash, a new tradition was born.
Every year since 1999, my little family has made our annual Christmas tree photoshoot a priority, coordinating outfits, dragging dogs, American Girl dolls… whatever… and posing under the tree. Being musicians, life and work didn’t always allow us to take that pre-Christmas photo as we played and sang while others posed for the cameras. I always managed to get our special photo taken before the end of January, even some years where everything else was tidy – except for the tree which hadn’t been lit for a few weeks but was definitely still sitting in our living room while waiting for a night, we could all be together on a good hairstyling day.
Now that our children are adults and live four hours away, this just happens to be one of those years where our plans didn’t align to create that special family memory. But I’m still waiting, and I can assure you that this tree will stay standing until the next time my chicks are all in the nest and we can take this picture together. And you can judge me until Easter, but I’m gonna have this pic!
Whatever your Christmas traditions are, I hope you enjoy the beauty while you can. Savor the peace. Let the joy overwhelm you. Find the goal. And by all means, share the love and light of Christmas.
One of my favorite post-Christmas songs that I sing almost every year on the Sunday after Christmas is “After December Slips Away”. I love and I leave you with the lyrics:
“The season only comes once a year
A precious gift of wonder
For all who love it
But past the sights and colored lights
Lord, well beyond December
I will remember
After the chants have faded
After the Christmas fire has gone out
When there are no more dreams to open and see
Because you are hope, joy and peace
Because you are the only gift that I need
In my heart the season will remain
After December escapes.