Traditionally, the tree was not put up or decorated until Christmas Eve and was left up until after Twelfth Night. These days between Christmas and Epiphany are the actual 12 Days of Christmas that we sing about every year. My dad even has memories of his early Christmases when Santa decorated the tree while the kids were sleeping on the evening of the 24th. Just a generation ago, but it seems so foreign to our current ideology.
Why would we put the tree up on the 24th only to take it down again on the 26th? It seems like a waste, doesn't it?
With our ever-increasing focus on gift giving as the most important part of the Holiday season, we often put up our tree before the Thanksgiving leftovers are in the fridge (and this year, we might have even started shopping between the main course and the pumpkin pie). Stores are ready for the commercialism to begin by Halloween, bombarding us with decorations, promised sales, and music to put us in the mood to buy, buy, buy.
Our Christmas Season lasts most of November and all of December.
Then comes Christmas morning and a flurry of wrapping paper and new toys for everyone. As soon as the gifts are unwrapped, it seems, we hurry to get the decorations packed up before mom and dad have to return to work and the kids are back in school. Christmas is all but forgotten by December 26th (unless we are among the throngs of folks returning and exchanging gifts for something just a little bit "better").
Our stores and our hearts have already moved beyond Christmas and begun to think about Valentine's Day...our next nationally recognized opportunity to buy more junk.
Don't get me wrong, we celebrate the holidays with gift giving, music, shopping, and the like all through the month of December like any good American. Honestly, I love it. The first snow makes me giddy. I insist on watching Elf every year (and White Christmas, and A Christmas Story). However, we are in no rush to tear down. We always leave the tree up until Epiphany and the coming of the Wise Men. Each year we are trying to incorporate more of the meaningful and relevant traditions of the Twelve Days of Christmas.
I'll let you know how it goes this year.
What are you doing to keep the true meaning of Christmas alive in your house?