Don't Let Go of Christmas Too Soon
January 6th, 2021
When do you take down the Christmas tree and other decorations? Some of my friends take them down on December 26. My Mom always left ours up until January 6. This was not because of the church calendar, but because when Mom was growing up that was when her mother took them down.
We leave candles that we put up around Thanksgiving burning in the windows of our house until spring. This year I am consciously thinking of the twelve days of Christmas which traditionally are the twelve days after Christmas Day.
I have been seriously thinking though that this year we shouldn’t jettison Christmas even at Epiphany, maybe not even at spring break.
There is something magical for many of us about this holiday. Even though I suffer blue Christmas feelings, having lost my Mom just before Christmas (47 years ago), I feel a light of good during this time. The carols, the crèches, the children’s laughter in anticipation of the big day—all of it has a hint of nostalgic magic for me.
Three of the traditional qualities of Christmas are especially on my mind this year.
More than just fun or happiness, joy defines that deep underlying sense of contentment that is unruffled by the turmoil of life’s circumstances. It echos hope. It leaves a quiet smile when everything seems wrong. As Emily Dickinson saw it,
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
Joy and it’s companion hope asks nothing of us, needs nothing from us. It just is. Deeply underlying every human woe is joy.
Don’t jettison Christmas too early. The joy that is emphasized at this season can last throughout the year, a well of sweet cool water in our desert hours
Close behind joy at Christmas is the whisper of peace. My elders sang of peace in the midst of the storm. When the world is flying apart in splintery pieces peace murmurs calm to the soul.
I think of it as spirit, as breath, and can usually access it by breathing deeply from my diaphragm and then slowly exhaling concentrating only on my own breathing.
It may not manifest itself among nations or even between people, but peace of mind is calmness, oneness with creation in the depths of us.
Do not desert Christmas as long as it sings gently of peace on earth goodwill to all.
There is something in the air at Christmas that moves us to be our best selves to others. The spirit of paying it forward or giving back to our community the many blessings that are ours comes most alive at Christmas.
So don’t toss Christmas out with the tangled light wires and the dried-up tree. Let’s release the best we have to offer long after the season of giving is passed. In our current national sense of individualism and “me first” it would be easy to move into a new year seeking our own. Holding on to that Christmas feeling of giving is a great anchor to keep us from drifting away from community into isolation.
The best giving is the gift of ourselves—being present in the moment, to the person who needs a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on. This sense of solidarity with our neighbors far and near is embodied in our Christmas traditions. Don’t let go of that sense too soon.
The highest sense of Christmas—or whatever holiday you celebrate that embodies these qualities—Is being our best selves—and not just to stay off Santa’s naughty list.
Savor those Christmas feelings all year. Don’t let go of Christmas too soon.