Monday, January 5, 2009

All Good Things Must Come To An End . . .

This weekend we took our Christmas tree down. In our house, the Christmas tree goes up the weekend after Thanksgiving, and comes down New Year's Day. I can say with confidence that this is officially and predictably one of my least favorite days of the year. There are many reasons for this:

1 - The tree itself. For about 4 weeks the tree, once decorated, brings light and joy into our house and is a reminder of very good things. It's pungent fragrance bombards your senses. The tree is the centerpiece of our Christmas celebration. Each year we go through the same revered family ritual of bringing out old, cherished ornaments while carefully choosing new ornaments that will join the pantheon. Each ornament has a story and a specific meaning to us, and we're very stingy about new ornaments going up. If they lack the beauty and character of what we already have they don't stand a chance. The tree is the focal point of tremendous sentiment and nostalgia.

By the time the tree comes down
on New Year's Day it's deadness hangs off the boughs like Marley's chains. The needles explode off the branches as you remove the strings of lights, which come off with far less care than they went up. Then you're faced with the important task of deciding if the current light strands will make it for another Christmas. If you choose to keep a strand that is unknowingly close to death, it might burn out on next year's tree after it's already been decorated. This presents a frustrating and time-consuming situation, so it's best to just pitch any strands older than one Christmas. After the lights come off, the tree will end up being thrown out the front door into the yard, with a grunt and perhaps a curse. Merry Christmas!! I'm sure it's amusing for my neighbors to see me burst out of my front door wielding a dead Douglas fir over my head. The needles and sap eventually get cleaned up, but it seems like every year I'm vacuuming at midnight.

2 - The music is over. Growing up my parents didn't play music much. My mom was a Kenny Rogers fan, but the Gambler came out rarely. But on Thanksgiving Day an unending flow of Christmas music poured out from the Realistic phonograph my parents owned. It was an autofeed record player, and it would stack 10-12 records on the post. Whenever the records finished rotating through, someone would flip the stack over and start it again. Among many of our favorites there was Jackie Gleason, Robert Shaw Chorale, Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Vince Guiraldi, Brenda Lee, Glen Campbell, Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby and of course Christmas Magic by Frad Waring and his Pennsylvanians. I've collected almost all that old music on CD or iTunes and it now resides my iPod. In our house now, the Christmas music starts when we hop into the van to make the 7 hr. trip to Grandma's in Jamestown, NY. From that moment Christmas music is played non-stop until the day the Tree comes down when it will go dormant once again until next Thanksgiving.

3 - The movies and decorations go back in the box. Each year we buy one Christmas movie to add to our collection. So far we have It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street (the original), A Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story, Polar Express, Christmas Vacation, Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, & Veggie Tales Christmas. This year we added The Preacher's Wife and The Bishop's Wife. Of course the more we add the more difficult it becomes to watch all of them, so we have to choose a select few. I still want to add The Santa Claus, Scrooged, Muppet Christmas Carol, Holiday Inn, White Christmas, Home Alone and Grumpy Old Men. Being committed to only buying one Christmas movie per year means it will be several years before our desired collection is complete.
4 - Goodbye to the lovely traditions. Let me list some of them, a lot of which have to do with food: making peanut brittle, sour cream twist cookies, chocolate buckeyes, egg nog w/brandy, Kara's decorated cutout cookies, nuts in the shell, mushroom sandwhiches, cheese and sweet dry sausage. Not to mention all the seasonal Christmas and Winter beer that abounds during that time. No wonder my digestion gets disrupted and my clothes don't fit anymore.

5 - Back to school. I've lived my entire life within the bounds of the academic calender. I currently work with college students and my daughter is in the first grade. So New Year's Day still means that school is right around the corner. It also means the end of college football until the fall, and that's a real bummer. So we go to bed New Year's night & every trace of our month-long Christmas celebration is gone. Within a day or two we're back at school and our minds are filled with the things of the New Year. It's still that way now.

So we look forward to another wonderful Christmas in 10 1/2 months time. I wonder what new ornaments we'll find for next year's tree, or what new beer I'll discover when the new winter seasonals are released in the fall. Who knows? Maybe none of us will be around for another Christmas.

Maybe Jesus' second advent will take place before then.

More later . . .

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