This weekend, most of America will take down their Christmas decorations, if they haven’t already. I’m waiting one more week. After all the effort to decorate, I want to enjoy it as long as I can. And it hasn’t been long enough. I love the week after Christmas, savoring every moment of its slow pace. It’s a perfect time to be snowed in and forced to spend my days curled up with a good book in front of the fireplace. Big tasks like un-decorating spoil the flavor of my week.
For me, the entire time between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day is Christmas. If someone says they’d like to get together “over Christmas,” I’m thinking December 29 or 30, not Christmas Day. I guess I’ve always thought of a year in terms of an academic calendar. I went straight from college to working with college students, and my entire adult life has been spent at some sort of institution of higher education, places where Christmas break lasts for a few weeks. The phrase “next year” means the next school year to me, starting in September instead of January.
When I lived in Hungary, people put decorations up on December 5, the night St. Mikulas (or Nicholas) leaves candy and trinkets in the children’s perfectly-polished shoes, placed expectantly by the window. They left them up until the 12th day of Christmas, January 6, also called Epiphany. In the Eastern Orthodox countries, Christmas isn’t even celebrated until January 7. Here in America, the Christmas season begins earlier and earlier every year. The decorations appeared in stores back in September and radio stations started playing only Christmas music two weeks before Thanksgiving.
By the day after Christmas, Steve didn’t want to hear any more Christmas music. I was ready to begin celebrating and he wanted it finished already. To remedy this, we agreed to ban all Christmas music in our house from now on until the first of December. Hopefully, next year, I’ll be able to listen to it on December 27 without making my husband ill. After such a long – much too long – build-up to Christmas, the season is over so quickly. People rush back to the stores to exchange their gifts and radio stations revert to their regular playlists the very next day.
2011 is over in just a matter of hours, but the Christmas season will last one more week in our house. And hopefully, gratitude for God’s great gift to us will never end.