By Sister Jean McGrath
The post-Christmas debate goes on:
. . . If your Christmas tree is up on the weekend after Thanksgiving, it is only appropriate that it comes down on the day after Christmas.
. . .Family tradition demands that the tree be up until at least January 6…we used to call that “Little Christmas”…
. . . Keeping the tree up wards off the post-Christmas blues when it is so cold and dark outside. If up to me, I think we should keep until Valentine’s Day.
Where do you stand on the debate?
I have always been on the keep it up for as long as you can side of the question. On January 6, the feast of the Epiphany (Little Christmas), I finally took down my Christmas tree. It was a bittersweet experience.
In the last few years I have created a mini-ritual for taking down the tree. While much is written about the traditions related to putting up the Christmas tree, I think it is equally important to celebrate taking down the tree. Whether you have a “live” tree from the local American Legion lot, a tree that you and your family cut down yourselves, or a pre-lit “looks almost real” tree from Home Depot, it is a memory holder that can prompt wonderful reflections on all that was and all that is to be. I offer the following:
The tree holds an eyewitness account of Christmas memories and new traditions created each year. If you have children, what could possibly top the vision of watching them discover all that Santa left for them after his late night visit? One quickly realizes that the time spent searching for the most desired toy of the year was well worth the effort. The new tradition of “family pajamas” creates a family portrait to be treasured for years to come when you wonder who ever thought of that idea.
The tree is the constant in the flurry of holiday celebrations and gatherings with family and friends where the circle of love between and among all present reminds us of the treasure each is in our life.
In the rush to put the tree up, we might lose sight of the memory so many of the ornaments hold. Construction paper snowflakes, popsicle stick stables, glitter sparkled angels crafted so carefully by pre-school artisans now home from college for Christmas. (“I cannot believe you saved that” as the now sophisticated sophomore scholar revels in the magic and memory of time that passes so quickly.)
Be very careful to wrap the tiny silver framed picture ornament with:”Baby’s First Christmas” a gift that announced the adoption of a grand-niece who at ten years of age continues to bring so much joy to her family as she grows each year.
A special box is here for the lovely Waterford crystal globe sent from cousins in Ireland so many years ago…Three generations have ensured it be part of family legacy and tradition.
I am careful to wrap the light strings with a prayer that they will last for another year. The old “bubble lights” are almost impossible to find now. I hold my breath each year for the aha moment of plugging everything in for the first time, hoping these vintage bulbs will light not only the tree but the faces of all who gather around the tree during the beautiful season of Christmas.
Today is a damp and cold January day. Most of us are back to work or school. Christmas aisles at Target have been replaced with Valentines and yes, even bathing suits for Spring break, but I am enjoying one of the best days of the New Year. The tree is in a big green bag, the ornaments are carefully boxed, and my heart is grateful for memories of another wonderful Christmas and the promise held in that tree bag and ornament box.
This Christmas like those in the past will light the way for a new year filled with hopes and dreams, worries and wonders, surprises and disappointments which will enrich the tree when it is put up again next December.
Happy New Year!
About the Author
After years as a Catholic School Principal, Sister Jean McGrath is looking forward to volunteer service now that she has retired. She loves a good book, a good conversation and a good bargain!