Sadder than a Christmas tree in January? Yes, that is how I’m feeling right now. Perhaps I have no one but myself to blame because I invested so much effort into the holidays. There is certainly too much to do during the weeks before the big day, and all the decorations and the shoppers with their treasures seem overwhelming.
Lights on houses are blazing and the stockings are hung and await the jolly old elf. Oh, and let’s not forget that holly on my own front door. It’s all festively intoxicating and seemingly too good to be true until January arrives and everything is over, the decorations come down, and I feel like there is a void that cannot be filled.
Part of it is the rekindling of joy and my youthful Christmas exuberance. I would start getting excited after dressing up for Halloween. Once the calendar turned to November, the anxiety and excitement started kicking in. The turkey and pilgrim decorations in my classroom would only stoke my excitement. I would start watching what I was doing and saying and remembered to eat all my vegetables, do all my chores, and finish my homework before dinner. “He knows if you’ve been bad or good/So be good for goodness sake” played over and over again in my mind as a mechanism to keep me on the nice list.
Christmas Isn’t Just for Kids
I have grown up but still have some of that anticipation as the holidays approach. Although I have loved seeing the joy in my children’s faces, Christmas is not just for them. Christmas is for adults too. There is the religious aspect that is important to me, and there is certainly a sense of magic in the Nativity scene that many people, including yours truly, have under the Christmas tree. There is also the joy of seeing friends and relatives again. It’s not just about Santa coming down the chimney with a bag of toys.
When I was a kid, wrapping paper was the only thing standing between me and a new toy. I understood the deal, but I didn’t care about how a box was wrapped; I just wanted to tear off that paper and see what Santa brought me. As an adult, I have a new found appreciation for wrapping paper. I enjoy sitting in the attic and wrapping presents. It really feels wonderful to give to people; however, wrapping paper is the bane of my existence after Christmas.
Since we host Christmas Eve, family members visit and give each other and us gifts. I have the lovely task of collecting all the discarded wrapping paper that is flying around the room like I’m at a colorful ticker-tape parade. This all has to be eventually compressed and put out as recycling. Standing in my cold garage and filling garbage bags with shredded holiday wrapping paper is as depressing as it gets.
New Year’s Day
The beginning of things turning toward the bleak days of January starts on New Year’s Day. The night before there is celebrating and partying and the ball dropping. I am still feeling safely nestled in December, but that is an illusion, because the New Year’s baby rears its ugly little head and January is here. When I wake up the next morning with visions of confetti, silly string, and sounds of noisemakers dancing in my head, I am stuck in a Kafka like nightmare waking up in a new year, feeling already battered and bruised.
Taking Down the Tree
I am always amazed that on Thanksgiving weekend I have enthusiastic elves ready to help me decorate inside and outside of the house. My kids sing Christmas carols and help me carry boxes and bags and the tree into the house from the garage. They dance around the tree placing bulbs (the ones with their faces get strategically placed front and center) and strings of artificial popcorn around the tree.
After Christmas in the first week of January (we always leave the tree up until January 6), not a creature is stirring. My elves have flown the coop, and the radio is silent. I slowly take decorations down and bulbs off the tree, put everything away in the garage, and it is depressing. I vacuum the rug where the tree stood, sit in a chair, and stare at the empty space. All that Christmas joy has turned into new year solemnity.
The worst and unkindest cut of all is the sight of discarded Christmas trees. Years ago I would see many more of them before the artificial tree took hold of the American consumer. Now, as I walk in the cold to clear my mind of these bleak new year’s thoughts, I am confronted by what once stood in someone’s warm living room brightening their holiday. Now it is literally tossed out with the trash; a couple of pieces of tinsel cling stubbornly to a branch and dance in the brisk wind. It’s ocular proof that Christmas is over, dead as Marley’s door nail and then some.
It Will Get Better
My only solace is that I know it will get better. There are football playoff games to watch and then the Super Bowl. By then we will be in February, and I’ll be hearing stories about pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training. Christmas will be just a memory then, and I’ll be thinking about the summer and another great vacation, and I won’t be sad anymore.
For now, I will try to forget about Christmas, although there were some wonderful memories that make me smile. Maybe next year I won’t get so excited; maybe I will be less festive. On second thought , that’s never going to happen. I’ll forget these January blues and go all in as I do every year. Oh, and just so that you know, it’s 345 days until Christmas 2023.
Happy New Year to you all!