I’m one of those people. You know … the ones who put their Christmas decorations up right after Thanksgiving and, then, leave them in place until sometime in February. I know, I know. People like me tend to annoy and irritate most everyone else. I mean, not all the time. But when it comes to the whole Christmas decoration thing, we’re a pain in the hoo-hah.
I think the right after Thanksgiving thing is pretty common. Most people I know put their trees and decorations up the weekend after Thanksgiving. Growing up, my dad worked what was called a “seven and seven” schedule. This meant he spent seven days living at his work site, and then he was home for seven days. If he was home for Thanksgiving, my family always put up our decorations the weekend after the Thanksgiving holiday. So we would gorge on turkey and count our blessings on Thursday. And by Saturday, we would be out hiking over our property in search of the perfect tree. By Sunday, our tree and house would be all decked out: ornaments, lights, the works. On that first Sunday evening, once all the lights were in place, we would turn all of them on, including the tree. Our house was at the top of a hill, and we had a long, unpaved driveway down to the road in and out of the area where we lived. We would all hike down the driveway just so we could see all of the lights from a distance. Good memories.
My family kept the tree up a little longer than most of my friends’ families. Although it could vary depending on my dad’s work schedule, my parents generally left the tree up for about a week after Christmas. We always had a live tree, which, of course, limited how long we could leave it up. By New Year’s Eve, or New Year’s Day at the latest, my dad generally had us undecorating and putting everything away. I can’t remember ever ringing in the new year with our decorations in place.
This year, we were late in putting up our tree. We were busy, and putting up the tree is a lot of work. There are things to be hauled from the garage. There are boxes to be searched. There are lights to be untangled and tested. There is furniture to be moved. Still, we got the tree up and running by the end of the first week in December. We had a beautiful tree this year, if I do say so myself. It was all decked out in colored lights, which gave it a beautifully pastel glow at night. For the past several years, we’ve used all white lights. We have a fake tree that came pre-lit. I like the white lights, too. But the tree is old and the lights don’t work any longer. In a way, this is great. Because those colored lights were fabulous this year. Really fabulous.
By all rights, we should have taken our tree down weeks ago. Most people I know — especially folks who had real trees — have them down and packed away the day after Christmas. We used a real tree for a few years, and, even then, I couldn’t bring myself to take it down that quickly. Although we had to let it go by the end of the first week in January. Real trees just get too dry and dangerous. And messy.
Having a fake tree does away with all of that. It doesn’t do away with the mess — at least, not completely. Our tree is old and sheds. A lot. But it’s not likely to dry out and catch on fire. This is a big plus, because it means I can keep the tree up as long as I want. Last year, I think we took our tree down sometime in March. And it didn’t get put away in the garage until April. This is overly long, even for me. But last year was a weird and horrible year. I was too worried about my husband’s heart attack, surgery, and recovery to care much about the tree.
As I sit and type this, my tree is still assembled and decorated. It sits proudly in front of a window on the second floor. I still turn it on every night so I can sit and watch the lights. I still look forward to coming home in the evening and seeing it lit up through the front window of my house. I know Christmas is over. I know I’m “supposed” to take down all the decorations and put everything away and get on with the business of “normal life”. I know it’s unconventional and, maybe, even a little bit weird to still have the tree up and lit. I get it. I really do.
But here’s the thing: I don’t care.
I hate January. I hate this month with a mighty passion and the strength of ten dozen burning suns. It is a sad month for me, one that has always made me feel bittersweet, anxious, and unsettled. Now, one year after my husband’s heart surgery, I have even more terrible memories associated with January. All month, my Facebook memories have been from our time in the hospital or from just before my husband’s heart attack happened. January is gray and chilly and … well, to be honest, it’s more than a little bit boring. It’s also extremely long. Thirty one days … and I feel the true weight of each and every one of them.
The Christmas tree makes me happy. It gives me a little bit of brightness in a world that is locked into the midst of winter. It gives me a little pick-me-up on gray and dreary days that make me think Spring will never come. It helps me get over the bad memories. It’s not like the tree is going to erase those things. But seeing the cheerful lights and the beautiful ornaments helps to smooth out the edges just a little. It’s cheerful.
And so, it shall stay. At least until February. And I will happily remain one of those people. But I did bring in some of my outside lights. I might be one of those people … But I’m not a savage.