For many Americans, today ― the day after Christmas, the twenty-sixth of December ― is the end of the Christmas season.
Today is the day that many families discard their Christmas trees, throw away the Christmas cards that arrived from friends and family, and take down their Christmas decorations. I expect that if I drove around town today, I'd see plenty of discarded Christmas trees, some still festooned with plastic “tinsel,” cast to the side of the road ready for trash pick-up. Some of them will be in large plastic trash bags. It's a pathetic sight that always makes me feel sad.
And of course, today is the day that many stores and retailers will offer “post-Christmas” sales and specials. The big department store near our village is holding an “After-Christmas Blitz and Clearance!” At many discount and grocery stores, today you can buy Christmas decorations and goodies at 50%, 60%, 70% off! The radio stations have already stopped playing Christmas music.
But what’s the rush? Why not enjoy the Christmas season a bit longer? Whatever happened to the Twelve Days of Christmas, which extend from Christmas Day to Epiphany, the sixth day of January?
I suppose that for most Americans, Christmas begins sometime in mid-October, or even earlier, when Christmas decorations and such begin to appear in shopping centers and supermarkets, even before Hallowe’en has come and gone. Thanksgiving, too, is swallowed up by Christmas, especially by the frenzied shopping that seems increasingly to be the central event of Thanksgiving weekend. And of course for many families, the day after Thanksgiving is the day to purchase (or un-box) and decorate a Christmas tree, hang the lights and decorations, and begin listening to Christmas music. So, by the time Christmas arrives, they’ve had enough.
Our family is happily out of step with most of America on this. Though we are not a religious family, we enjoy many Christmas traditions, and we enjoy them rather slowly.
We did not buy our Christmas tree until December 15 or 16, when K was already home from school and she and D could enjoy going out together to find the perfect tree. D put up the tree and put the lights on it, but we did not decorate the tree until a few nights later, when we could all be together for our “Christmas Carol” tree-decorating tradition. (Read about it here: http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/2011/12/christmas-carol.html)
I confess that I did not bake any Christmas cookies until…yesterday. Christmas Day. Here they are: http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/2011/12/merry-christmas.html. We’ll enjoy them as we observe the Twelve Days of Christmas, and K can take some back to school with her to share with friends.
We’ll leave our Christmas tree up until January 6, on which date we’ll also put away the indoor Christmas decorations. We’ll leave the evergreen wreaths on the outside doors until the end of January.
I’m going to try to avoid going into any retail outlets for a while… the Valentine’s Day stuff is probably already on sale.
POSTSCRIPT: Though we are not a religious family, we enjoy many Christmas traditions. I resolved to enjoy all the Twelve Days of Christmas, from Christmas Day until Epiphany on January 6th, and to do so in part by writing a bit each day about some aspect of the Christmas season. All the essays may be read here.