Well, why shouldn't we enjoy it for a few more days? Q said yesterday. It hasn't shed a single needle.
It's Epiphany, I said. It's when you take it down.
I don't know why.
It just is.
But it has been our most beautiful Christmas tree to date, and so, in the end, I yielded: one more day, and we would take it down today. Not just the tree, but everything. I arose early, impatient to begin. I have never known just what lies beneath the urgency I feel about sweeping away the Christmas things, because I love Christmas at home. Love the way the house looks, love the special silver and the Christmas dishes and the little arrangements of evergreens and pine cones on all the end tables. This year's mantel had a woodland bird theme: pine cones and holly and little statues of birds. I felt happy every time I looked at it.
Still, I delay most of the decorating -- I know people who use the day after Thanksgiving go put up the tree, but that's not us. I usually host a tea for my women's club in mid-December -- it is referred to as "our Christmas meeting," and we sing carols, but there is no Christmas tree, not yet. Maybe a wreath, maybe some holly, maybe a few holiday plates, but by no means everything. It must be brief, that wonderful time of warmth and family and hospitality. It mustn't start to early or go on too long. I couldn't bear ever to let it become tedious or shopworn.
Into the fireplace went the holly and the evergreens. Down came the cool little wreath made of wine corks, the two cone-shaped trees covered with bay leaves. The empty creche is now on the dining room table, waiting to go into its box, and all its figures are standing around on the table, too, except for Jesus, who has returned to his shelf in the china cupboard. I am going to set everything out there and really organize it this year, I have promised myself, so soon the tree ornaments will join everything else on the table. It will look like a jumble sale at the North Pole.
Oh, good-bye again! Good-bye strings of wooden beads that look like cranberries, ancient glass ornaments balls from my childhood, so few in number now. Good-bye ceramic Santas and hummingbirds, good-bye lights and wreaths and dangly colored crystals and popsicle-stick stars made by long-ago children. I shall pack you away carefully and Q will carry you up to the attic, and it will seem a matter of weeks until he brings you all down again.
I want to pack them very carefully. One of these years someone else will go up and get them, will decide whether or not they are worth keeping. One of these Christmases will be the first one without us, and we don't know which one it will be. The things we put by for later use are put by, also, for the time when we will have no further use for anything on this earth.
So I want to pack these things away very, very carefully.
The 2006 General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets in Columbus, Ohio from June 13 to the 21st. If you are a Farmer who lives near Columbus and would like to be part of a home team to help put on a Geranium Farm Event at Convention, please contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.