I am at a loss. Since we stayed home for the holidays this year, I decorated for Christmas. Now I am wondering when I should take the tree down. Most of the time, you can count on the Unwritten Rules to guide you in a situation like this. You know the ones I mean. Look both ways before crossing the street. Chew with your mouth closed. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom. Never wear white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. Don’t stick metal things in electrical outlets. Those handy rules our parents drilled into us as children that help us make important decisions and otherwise navigate our way through life.
I searched my mental data bank for the rule of thumb regarding the Christmas tree and was stumped. I don’t have one. I was going to blame this on my not being raised Christian, but after doing some highly scientific research on the internet (i.e., skimming the first five links that came up), I’ve realized there is no handy rule — just a bunch of differing opinions.
Traditional Christians talk about Twelfth Night and Epiphany, like the rest of us know the heck that’s all about. Despite what the retailers want us to believe, the twelve days of Christmas start on Christmas Day and run until Twelfth Night which by my calendar is January 5th, although apparently not everyone agrees on that. Epiphany is January 6th-ish. In some Christian circles, the tree is supposed to come down some time between the two, which gives you a when, although I think un-decorating a Christmas tree in the middle of the night is a little weird.
Families who put their trees up at Thanksgiving or early in December are of course fed up with having the thing in the house. Tired of yelling at tree-climbing cats and sweeping up pine needles, they are ready to take down the tree as soon as the presents are unwrapped. Couples without children, feeling in general a little more relaxed about things, take their trees down on New Year’s Day, if they bothered to put one up at all.
Which leaves me out here in the middle of January looking at my Christmas tree and thinking: I missed it! It doesn’t matter whose standards I use. I am late again. I missed Take Down Your Christmas Tree Day.
Now what do I do?
While I love Kristen Lamb’s solution of just leaving it up and decorating it for other holidays, I’m not sure I can do it justice. I’m not interested in decorating for the popular holidays, so I would be unable to take advantage of all the decorations sold for Valentine’s Day, Easter, and the 4th of July. I’d want to decorate for the neglected and misunderstood holidays, like Groundhog Day, Earth Day, and Columbus Day, and that would mean making my own trimmings for the tree. Of course, I could be efficient about it. I could paint Christmas balls to look like the Earth and use them for all three holidays. That would reduce the decorating time, but I’d probably have to dust. Like that is going to happen.
We need a national Take Down Your Christmas Tree Day. A firm deadline, that is the same year after year after year. Something that sticks in the brain and gives those of us with a slight tendency to procrastinate to get off the sofa and fight yet again with our strings of Christmas Tree lights. Otherwise, my tree will be there until next Christmas.
When do you take down your Christmas tree? When should national Take Down Your Christmas Tree Day be?