Due to the vagaries of nature and the calendar, I often spend my birthday taking down the Christmas decorations. I’m not sure if this is a great way to begin my new year or a cruel twist of fate designed to remind me that life is fleeting.
On the one hand, there is a certain satisfaction in eliminating the mess, clearing the table tops, dusting off the window sills and generally making the house spare and tidy. All those empty corners and lonely surfaces make room for something new, something unexpected, something wonderful.
On the other hand, putting away Christmas feels like a sad task. All the joy and hope that went into setting up the tree, now just a crumpled pile of tinsel. All the excitement and love that went into wrapping a parcel, reduced to fire-starter. And I haven’t even mentioned the refrigerator! The meals prepared with such care and detail, served on the best china to treasured guests, now solicit a groan of “more left overs.”
One of my Christmas gifts was a book by Sue Townsend. The story involves a woman who goes to bed for a year. In December her hapless husband grudgingly agrees to “do” Christmas. He asks her where she keeps it, as though Christmas is something that can be put in a box, stored in the attic, then pulled out once a year, complete and beautiful and wonderful. As I said, the book is very funny.
It’s a platitude to say we keep Christmas in our hearts and we should keep it all year round, but the trappings of Christmas also play a role in our celebration of the season. Does anyone leave a creche set up all year? Do you expect wisemen at Thanksgiving? Are the shepherds welcome at Easter? Not likely. So, as I pack up the angels, the bells, the carol books and the Christmas napkins, I’m reminded that “to everything there is a season.”
This is the season to let go of the visible accoutrements of Christmas; a time to celebrate my birthday, the beginning of a new year for me; a time to dream for the future, set new goals, seek out new opportunities. But even though I've put “Christmas” in a box, I can still look for angels in unexpected places. I can gaze at the heavens and wonder at all the stars. I can pause by a bale of straw and give thanks to God for the gift of His son.
What about you? Are you eager to strip away the tinsel and replace it with Valentine’s? Do you shed a melancholy tear as you throw out the tree? Do you ever sing Christmas carols in July?
Alice Valdal is a writer living in British Columbia, Canada. Already published in traditional print, she ventured into self-publishing with an ebook in November, 2013. Just in case you want to rekindle that Christmas feeling, you can check out her collection of Christmas short stories, The Man Who Loved Christmas, here or here
You can visit me at www.alicevaldal.com