I did something today that I always hate doing and yet I do it every year: I took down the outside Christmas decorations.
I’m not much of a romantic, but I am very, very sentimental. Part of the reason I’m a huge fan of the holiday season despite being an atheist is because of all the wonderful memories I have of it from my childhood. The religious aspects of the holiday took a backseat to the whole Santa thing and the cliche that it’s the one time of the year when people are a little more decent to each other. A cliche I bought into as a child with each Christmas special that I watched. It really did seem magical to me as a kid and I reveled in it. When I was finally old enough to participate in putting up the decorations it only added to the excitement each year.
As with most things you highly anticipate, there’s a minor feeling of loss that occurs once it has come and gone. It’s kind of like riding a roller coaster. All that excitement and build-up and then it’s suddenly over with the memory already starting to fade along with your heart rate. When it comes time to take down the decorations and pack them away for the year it brings a definite finality to the events. You can’t even pretend that Christmas was just yesterday anymore by turning on the lights just one more time. In years past I’ve so dreaded this day that it wasn’t unusual for my decorations to stay up until into February. For years I’ve had a standing agreement with my wife that they come done by her Birthday, which is January 30th.
Of course as you get older you don’t get as excited about the same things you did as a kid and thus the let down afterwards isn’t as strong as in the past. Eventually you get to a point where your pragmatism starts to override your sentimentality. Or at least I do. Today when I woke up the sky was clear and almost cloudless with a outdoor temp of 33° — practically a heat wave for a Michigan January — so I went outside and took down all the lights I had put up back in November along with the other miscellaneous decorations. Didn’t even bother to put on a jacket. I felt the old familiar pang as I did so, but it wasn’t as bad as in years past. My reasons for doing so were definitely pragmatic. There’s no snow on the ground, as unusual as the temperature for this time of year, and I know that if I let the opportunity pass that the next time I get up the gumption to do it before the birthday deadline will probably be after it has snowed six feet and the temps are sub-zero. Better to get it done now than once the winter finally catches up with us.
But I was still a little bummed while doing it. The only lights still outside are the lanterns that have the fake LED candles in them. We thought they’d make excellent lights for the path to the back door and they aren’t particularly seasonal so they’ll stay up. My Christmas tree is still up and I’m trying to decide whether to take it down today or wait until Courtney visits us next weekend. It’s looking a little sad as the cats have gotten most of the plastic ornaments on the bottom half of the tree off to play with, but if I use the excuse of Courtney’s visit to keep it up then I could at least pretend that the holidays haven’t fully passed for one more week. It’s definitely tempting.
I think this is part of why religion has such a tenacious hold on people. We don’t like letting go of things that make us feel good. We become irrational in trying to hold onto those memories and emotions. We want to keep those warm feelings regardless of the date (or the truth). It can lead us to do foolish things like ignore global climate change or, as I did the first year I lived in my apartment in Canton back in my early 30’s, leave a Christmas tree up all year long*.
Don’t know if any of that makes sense, but I wrote it down anyway.
*In my defense I was traveling a lot for a job with GMAC dealing with upgrading computers to prevent problems with Y2K and was rarely home long enough to mess up the apartment let alone put the tree away.