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My husband’s sister usually takes her Christmas tree down Dec. 26.
When Christmas is over, it’s over, she says. Besides, the tree takes up space in her living room.
Others I know devote New Year’s Day to packing up the decorations, a family project.
Still others leave them up until Jan. 6, Three Kings Day, the 12th of the 12 days of Christmas.
Me, I’m a Christmas extender.
I’m not in a hurry to pack away the nutcrackers, the lights and the nativity scene.
Now I’m not like a church member from our church in northern Kentucky, now probably well into her 90s, who would put up an elaborate Christmas village in her home each year. In early December, her nieces would spend a few days helping her. Then Ms. Mary would enjoy their handiwork, inviting friends over for holiday luncheons and dinners well into February before she would painstakingly take it all down.
Still, it’s usually about mid-January before the Darlands haul the ornament canisters up from the basement and fold the tree back into its box.
I’m not entirely sure why we let Christmas linger. Some of it might be that we usually don’t decorate until well into December, a holdover from growing up in south Florida where the warm temperature didn’t inspire thoughts of Santa and Frosty. So we want to make sure we’ve spent enough time sitting in the dark with the Christmas tree all lit up, drinking in the wonder and peace of its beauty. It’s busy in a pastor’s home in December, with Christmas parties for every group and ministry we’re involved in and special services. Not many silent nights.
And sure there are other, more pressing things to do at our house in January than put the fake greenery away. After all, there are after-Christmas sales to be attended to and trips to the fitness center — New Year’s resolution, of course — to be made.
But perhaps I’m loath to say goodbye to Christmas because of what it represents.
As long as the tree is up, I get to see ornaments our children have made or some that family or special friends have given us over the years.
The Christmas cards pinned to a pine garland over the opening between the living room and the kitchen come from friends all over the United States, and they remind me of those connections we keep.
My nutcracker collection, begun when I picked up two knockoffs from a discount store for a few dollars after Christmas one year, has grown to almost thirty of various sizes and styles. My daughter-in-law gave me a ballerina one year, the only female figure in the group. And this year a special friend from Germany gave me an authentic German nutcracker, a real treasure.
The table-top “mission tree” I’ve had for 10 years with ornaments from countries around the world reminds me to pray for missionaries serving in far-flung places.
The burned-down candles on the advent wreath, one pink and three purple at various heights, help me recall the preparation we made for Christmas, reading passages from Scripture each night as we looked forward to commemorating the birth of that special babe.
When my stepfather joined our family in the late ’60s, he brought with him a record collection that included several Christmas albums. I remember a Perry Como album where that crooner sang “That Christmas Feeling.” Maybe that’s what I don’t want to let go of yet: Christmas helps you to remember to do what other folks hold dear. What a blessed place the world would be if we had that Christmas feeling all year.
Suzanne Darland teaches journalism classes and is director of the faculty advising center at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College.