The last few days, as we cycled around our town, we regularly passed heaps of Christmas trees lying at the kerb, waiting to be collected by the council. It’s always a sad sight: the trees that we glimpsed through windows, decked with lights and ornaments, now lying drab and discarded on the pavement. This year, with only gloomy prospects of dull lockdown days ahead, I completely understand the people who are keeping up their decorations for longer, trying to bring some light into these dark times. But I won’t be one of them.
As a child, I was passionate about Christmas. I had a calendar that showed for every day in the year how many days it was until Christmas. So on Boxing Day I had already started counting down to the next Christmas. I adored our Christmas tree, the wonderful smell of spruce permeating the whole living room, the gentle sparkle of the decorations, the coloured lights that merged into a gorgeous hazy glow when I drank my mug of hot blackcurrant and my glasses steamed up. When Epiphany came and it was time to take down the tree, I usually had tears in my eyes. “I wish it could be Christmas every day” – that lyric expressed my sentiments exactly.
One year, as a rebellious teenager, I decided I didn’t want to put my Christmas candle arch away after the holiday was over. And almost twelve months later, there it still was, pushed towards the back of my bedside table, teetering precariously close to the edge, completely unnoticed and forgotten.
I learned my lesson that year. Christmas is special precisely because it only comes once a year, for a few short weeks. Try to make it Christmas every day, and it becomes everyday – devoid of its meaning. Those candles gave me a warm feeling inside because they made me think of Christmas. After they had been there all year, they were just lights.
If I keep my decorations up now, then they won’t keep giving me that Christmas feeling. They might even make me feel down, by reminding me of the magic of Christmas without being able to cast its spell. Perhaps, by becoming so familiar, my decorations will even lose their power to enchant me next Christmas. How, then, will I make Christmas 2021 special?
I have a particular fear about leaving my decorations up this time round. When I was breastfeeding my daughter, my partner set an alarm on his mobile phone for each feeding, using a particular ringtone. Recently, by accident, his phone played that ringtone. Instantly, I was overcome with a feeling of stress, suddenly plunged back into the middle of a string of broken nights and disrupted days. If I make my Christmas decorations my touchstone through the corona crisis, won’t they forever after remind me of the stress and strain of this period?
On 6th January we took down our tree. Instead of the usual pang of regret, I felt good about it. In a year in which there has been so little change, this ritual gave me a welcome sense of moving onwards. Right now, instead of Christmas lights, I’m seeking my comfort in the green shoots of daffodils and crocuses appearing in the mud of our garden, that in the months to come will erupt into colourful bloom.
This is only my personal point of view, of course. If keeping the Christmas decorations up helps you, then do it. Every bit of comfort is welcome during this time. Christmas decorations can bring you light, colour and happy memories. Just think twice if you expect them to make it feel like Christmas every day.