I have often heard that the right time to take down holiday decorations is the first full weekend after we ring in the new year. That means that today and/or tomorrow is the exact right time for us. So, I will dutifully go down to the basement and into the crawl space. I will bring up the MANY different bins where we store the Xmas ornaments and the seemingly infinite strands of lights. And we will begin the work of putting away the past.
This past has years within it. It has the many Ugly Ornaments that we get every year, trying to outdo ourselves with each one. It contains all of the little animal ornaments that represent our family as it has grown and changed over the years (we started with two peas in a pod and this year we were 5 frogs, all with our names written in far better handwriting than I could ever muster). This past has our own childhoods represented by the pieces of plastic that have somehow made it nearly 40 years before getting lost or disintegrating.
But, we put the past away into these boxes. We put away both the good and the bad. The moments of conflict as our family becomes more and different than it was when we were just two peas in a pod. The sadness of those who have died since our first holiday as a family. We put them away.
And what do we hang in their stead? Are there decorations that we hang on the mental mantle, that represent our lives to us in little moments and memories? Yes.
As I look around my house and notice all of the things on the countertops or hanging over the banister, I know that it is all decoration. The piece of homework that is yet to be completed. The coat that has yet to be warn. The golden electric mini-tree that we illuminate whenever we have company. These are decorations that are ever present, but also ever-changing. Even the pieces of a stuffed animal that our dog has strewn about on the carpet and we have not collected enough energy to gather. This is our menagerie to the past, and even this trash is a part of it.
And we cannot take our decorations down or put them away fully. Everything we wear or put on our shelves is a testiment to who we have been and what we have wanted and hated and built and collected. We are our past, and we cannot put it away no matter how much we want to. There are not nearly enough bins to store our history. Which is why it doesn’t much matter whether I take down my Xmas tree or put away the lights. They are just the most obvious representation that time has, in fact, passed.
So, leave your tree up. Or don’t. Just know that for every ornament that you call an ornament, there are hundreds of other objects in your house that perform the same function: helping us to remember.
I remember my family. And my own history. And I will hold on to both and never put them away.