Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

January 24, 2014

How long does holiday spirit shine?

— — The twinkling lights are lovely, casting a warm glow and bringing a sparkle to the dull gray of winter. But it’s past the midpoint in January and some folks still have up Christmas decorations?

We could be accused of the same in fraction at my home. It was Jan. 2 when we tore down the Christmas trees (yes, I’ve become one of those people with two Christmas trees because, well, we own two artificial, non-allergy irritating trees so why not use them both?). We also wrangled up the outside lights that blanketed the trees and bushes, and stripped the garland from the mantel, bannister and other spots around the house. It’s our typical schedule the first or second day of the New Year to dismantle the Christmas village, box up handmade birch snowmen, and deconstruct the Eskimo-themed Nativity.

However, careful observers from the outside might notice the battery-operated candles, each twinkling in our five front-facing upstairs windows. We decided to leave them until their batteries run out and they stop doing their flickering dance at dusk every evening.

It wasn’t an attempt to keep Christmas alive, just a way to keep a warm glow emanating through the cold, dark weeks that follow all the holiday festivities.

I’ve noticed a few celebrants still have full holiday lights decorating their landscaping or a Christmas wreath or garland draped over or around a door. Considering the time and effort it takes to install it all, I don’t blame people for wanting to make the most of their holiday cheer. I think it is a personal choice.

There are those with a dramatically short holiday attention span who put the tree up on Christmas Eve and take it down the day after. I don’t think there are many with that speed-decking-the-halls approach.

Dec. 26, as many know, is Boxing Day which is observed in the United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and other Commonwealth nations, according to Wikipedia. It appears to have originated as an English tradition for servants and tradesmen who worked Christmas Day and then were given by their employers the following day off, along with being given boxes of gifts and treats to share with their families. I might have missed that episode of “Downton Abbey” but that seems like the least one could do to thank servants for their nearly 364-day service. Today Boxing Day is primarily known as a bank holiday and some mark it as a day to donate to those less fortunate while some celebrants choose to box up their decorations on that aptly named day.

There are those of us who start unraveling the Currier and Ives decor on New Year’s Day or the next day. We are the ones not watching football or the Rose Bowl Parade. Others keep their decorations up until Three Kings Day on Jan. 6, a European or Latin American tradition. The Three Kings are the three Wise Men. This date was chosen to mark the visit of the three wise men/kings who began following the star they saw in the sky the night Christ was born. They came bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh. It also represents the Feast of Epiphany or The Adoration of the Magi or The Manifestation of God, as the celebrations are sometimes called.

January 6 also marks the twelfth day after Christmas and some believe it is bad luck to keep decorations up past that time. Not sure why exactly. Possibly it dates back to when people used live trees lit by candles. By Jan. 6 it would seem bad luck to have lit kindling decorating your home.

Those of us who live in warm climes can’t relate but other folks may have to wait until the first thaw to remove their frozen lights or snow encased reindeer. Spring will bring a welcome relief from Rudolph.

When you research something online you find all kinds of unusual traditions hitched to the usual ones. I’ve read about people who leave up their tree but replace the Christmas ornaments with Mardi Gras ornaments. Someone else had one of those shiny aluminum trees with the lighted color wheel and the person said she left it up until after Valentine’s Day. I’ve heard if you choose a wreath with red and white trimmings you could stick in some hearts and refashion it for Feb. 14. Another person posted a comment that their “dear friends ... leave their decorated tree up until Easter … from the birth to the resurrection!”

And one self-titled “practical guy” said it is his rule to tear down the tree on trash day so it can be carried directly to the curb. 

I agreed with the commenter who said that once the holiday cards and decorations came down, it is sad to see “how bare and sparse the living room looks afterwards ... a little strange, don’t you think? Sort of makes you want to put them back up.” Instead, the sparseness motivated us to go finally buy some much-needed art for our living room wall.

As I said, I have no problem with folks who let their holiday decorations linger. But don’t get me started on the political campaign signs that disfigure the landscape through a long election season and stay posted weeks after the polls close.

 Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Contact her at jdesmond@bdtonline.com.

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