I love Christmas and I love everything (almost) about Christmas. The decorating, the anticipation, all those concerts and productions, baking Christmas cookies, even shopping can be fun. But I do not like taking it down and putting it away.
I guess I like the fun, splashy, pretty part. Not the boring, utilitarian aftermath. Trimming a tree and festooning a house with lights brings sparkle to a normally ordinary space. Putting it away – well, it just leaves a gaping hole.
At least that’s the reason I claim for why I want to stretch Christmas as long as I can and get my money’s worth out of it. Maybe laziness and exhaustion (especially this year) contribute to my procrastination. My weeknights are much too short and often my back too sore to relish the prospect of tediously wrapping and storing ornaments. And my weekends – booked solid. I’m living for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (glad he was born in January).
To extend Christmas as long as possible, I incorporate traditions and dates from all three of the countries I’ve lived in. These days in the States, Christmas kicks off like a football on Thanksgiving Day — before the turkey is digested. Since I also want to get my money’s worth out of Thanksgiving, I refuse to venture up into the attic and bring down box after box of gala until the day afterwards.
In Eastern Europe, the Eastern Orthodox countries celebrate holidays according to the Gregorian calendar and the Catholic ones use the Julian calendar. Romania had a mixture of both religions with a large percentage of ethnic Hungarians (Catholic) living amongst Romanian Orthodox people. Neighboring Orthodox countries observe Christmas on January 7 and New Year’s Day on January 14. Oddly, but thankfully for me as an American, the Catholic date of December 25 won out in Romania. When decorations long-denied under Communism were re-introduced, they were generally put up on Christmas Eve and left up until New Year’s Day.
After Romania, I moved to Hungary where Christmas starts much earlier – on December 6. Children leave perfectly-polished shoes and boots by the window before they go to bed on December 5, in hopes that Szent Mikulas (Nikolas) will stuff them full of candy and trinkets instead of wooden switches. Trees remain trimmed until Epiphany, on January 6.
Epiphany is the twelfth day of Christmas, known as the day the magi came to visit toddler Jesus. I love that the word “epiphany” means a sudden intuition or insight. I wonder what insight the magi had after their long journey to the star’s end. All we know is that they fell at the feet of Jesus in worship and presented Him with gifts of high value.
After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Matthew 2:11.
So, if you’re still with me, here’s my plan. I take the earliest of the early dates and the latest of the late dates to justify all the time and backache involved. I put decorations up the day after Thanksgiving, and leave them up until at least January 6, sometimes even January 14.
This is what I tell myself to rationalize the fact that today, January 10, everything is still up and our floors are littered with empty boxes waiting to be filled. Waiting for another Christmas season to end.
When everything is finally stuffed into the attic, my hope is that I’ll never put an end to gratitude for God’s incomprehensible gift. I don’t want my heart left with a gaping hole like my living room. I pray that this year I will continually fall at Jesus’ feet and worship Him through giving Him the gift of highest value to me: my heart. How about you?