I’ve been taking my time putting Christmas decorations away.
Long ago, before I grew up, my parents had a strict schedule for Christmas decorations.
They went up on Christmas Eve, so that they could leave a child awestruck at their sudden appearance overnight.
We followed that practice even when I was old enough to help set up the decorations, so it was no surprise on Christmas morning.
And then everything came down on Twelfth Night, Jan. 6 – when, tradition says, the Magi from the east visited Jesus and brought gifts of gold, myrrh and incense.
Even if that visit might have been up to two years later.
Two years, you see, let King Herod be sure that by killing all the two-year-old boys in Bethlehem he could eliminate any threat to his throne.
On the day of Twelfth Night, we carefully removed the tinsel from the branches of the Christmas tree and wrapped it neatly in newspaper.
We took down all the bright balls, wrapped them in tissue paper, and put them in boxes.
We wrapped the candles in wax paper, wrapped the creche figures in old tea towels, and stuffed the streamers into paper bags.
We put them all away. Somewhere. That wasn’t part of my job.
My job was to take the tree and any evergreen wreaths outside. To burn them in the yard.
A single match usually sufficed to demonstrate the combustibility of coniferous forests.
This year has been different.
Some of my Christmas decorations have come down and been tucked away in boxes in the basement storage room. But some are still out.
It’s partly lethargy, I know. Sloth, to use the word associated with one of the seven deadly sins.
Winter, the shortage of sunlight, does not inspire me with energy.
I may have some hibernation genes.
But it’s also, I think, that I don’t want Christmas to end.
Regardless of what one believes about Virgin Births and the historical accuracy of supernova in the night sky, Christmas is considered a time of peace and goodwill.
Was it purely coincidence that the rioters in Washington, D.C., waited until Twelfth Night, the end of Christmas, to launch their attack on Congress?
The Irish poet W.R. Rodgers – no relation to the Rodgers partnered with Hammerstein – satirized the fakeness of peace and goodwill at Christmas. “Punctually at Christmas,” he wrote, “the soft plush of sentiment snows down…Angels, like stalactites, descent from heaven, and bishops distribute their own weight in words.”
Families, he said, sit “in old stone circles” to share “the tinned milk of human kindness…”
And yet beneath the pain in his words lies the reality that for a while, people at least try to practice peace and goodwill. They donate to food banks. They hold reunions. They set aside old hostilities. They volunteer at the Gospel Mission.
It may be pretence, but it’s worth pretending. Even for a short period.
Maybe pretending is a form of prayer. To act, if only for a few days, as if the values we profess are true as if we really believed in them.
I just made a decision. I shall leave some of my Christmas decorations up all year.
Jim Taylor lives in Lake Country.