Yesterday we took down the Christmas tree. It has always been a tradition to take it down on New Year’s Day—a tradition that extends from my childhood. We always felt sad when we were children to see the decorations disappear. To dull the melancholy that came with the end of the holidays, my mother would put the tree out by the incinerator (now banned because it pollutes the air). We would decorate the tree’s branches with cubes of dried bread strung on thread. That did help us feel better. My sister and I never knew what happened to the tree after our bread cube ritual because we were swept back into the school routine. It was probably cut into pieces and burned. The smoke from hundreds of incinerators is one of my memories from childhood that my children never experienced.
One year when I was still in elementary school, all of us in the neighborhood gathered up our discarded trees and made a Christmas tree fort. You can tell it was a warm day because we are all in tee shirts. What a scraggly bunch we were! I guess we were beyond the bread cube strings by that time.
My entire family now owns pre-lighted Christmas trees. Oh, we modern city dwellers! We don’t have to worry about taking our trees to a local Christmas tree dumpsite where it will be mulched into ground cover for the city or county gardens. Instead, we take the ornaments off, pull the tree apart, fold the branches up and wrap them with the enclosed pipe-cleaner style wires. These we stack back in the box and store them in our crawl space. Easy-peasy! By the time the ornaments and other traditional items are wrapped and put in boxes for storage and the house is vacuumed and dusted, we are ready for a new year. It feels good to be cleaned up, but the house seems a little empty and dull now. Hanging the new calendar does help a bit.
Missing the brightly lighted tree, the angels, Santa Claus, elves and nativity scenes is undoubtedly what welcoming Christmas back in December is all about. If the holiday season lasted all year, it would soon fade into the background!
There were many debates this year about the crassness of Christmas shopping and shoppers, the mixing of the religious with the secular, keeping Christ in Christmas and so on. Whatever the arguments, the beginning of winter, the changing of calendars and the singing of Auld Lang Syne return every year.