I remember one year when I was a kid that our Christmas tree stayed up until the end of January. It wasn’t lit up much after the big day, but it was still there, standing silently in the corner like a socially awkward visitor unsure of what to do. My parents had to be in the right mood to put the tree up and the right mood to take the tree down; there was no set schedule for doing either. Sometimes the right mood to take it down was brought on by the disgust of having to look at it.
I was fine with this arrangement. It made sense to me to put the tree up and to take it down when you felt like doing so. Pre-determining when to do these things seemed arbitrary and unnecessary. When it came to Christmas trees, I was a hippie–it will happen when it happens, man. This all changed once I married Kristy.
My wife, lovely and small, is generally a spontaneous type of person. It’s not that she doesn’t make plans, it’s that the plans she makes are on the fly and subject to change at any moment. This is both good and bad, frustrating and wonderful. When I get my taste buds in the mood for loaded potato soup from O’Charley’s and she decides she would rather go to Cracker Barrel: frustrating. When life starts to feel dull and her spontaneity sends us on a mini-adventure: wonderful. When the mini-adventure involves animals: wonderfully frustrating.
This spontaneity is strangely absent when it comes to the putting up and taking down of our Christmas tree.
The tree goes up the weekend after Thanksgiving. This is just the way it is. Fighting against it is like fighting the tide, growing older, or the final episode of a television show disappointing at least half of the viewers. Resistance is futile. Yes, that last sentence is a too-often-used quote from Star Trek: The Next Generation. No one gave me a new personality for Christmas; I am still a nerd. Just because a quote is used too much doesn’t make it any less true. After the turkey is eaten, the tree goes up. Period.
After serving faithfully from the end of November through December 25th, the Christmas tree gets taken down the day after Christmas in a sadly unceremonious manner. It gets put up with great care and attention to detail. It remains standing at attention, guarding our presents with grim seriousness. And when Christmas comes and goes, we take it down as quickly as we can without saying thank you or getting misty eyed or showing any emotion at all. “You’ve done your job, now get back in the box.” Our Christmas tree is similar to Rodney Dangerfield.
This year was different. It is December 27th and the tree is still up. For now. I don’t know why we didn’t take it down yesterday. It might have been because of the snow outside. Snow always seems to slow me down, even when I’m not out in it. It might have been because our kids were really enjoying their gifts and we were enjoying watching them. There are few things in life as satisfying as watching your children laugh and play, especially when they’re not hitting each other. It might have been because we were feeling a little lazy yesterday. It happens.
The reason we didn’t take the tree down yesterday doesn’t matter as much as the effect it had on me as I left for work this morning. In the darkness and stillness of the house, the lights from the tree glowed with beauty and it filled me with a sense of wonder and joy. I stared at it for a few minutes. I thought about some of the ornaments; when they were purchased, what they mean. I thought about the laughter that our tree has heard through the years. I thought about how much more laughter it might hear before it becomes worn out and we have to buy another one that will hopefully do its job as well as the current one has.
Then I smiled, chuckled softly to myself, and headed outside. Maybe it will be up when I return home this evening. But just in case I said my goodbyes and, for once, a thank you for a job well done. It didn’t say anything in return; I guess it’s better at watching gifts than receiving one.
I am instructed in my favorite book to be thankful for everything. This morning I was thankful for an inanimate object . That’s okay, I think.
(Do you have a set time and date to take down your tree? Has this changed over the years?)