Untrim the Tree

discarded Christmas treeSome people take down their tree and decorations the day after Christmas. In their minds, the holiday is over and it’s time to move on. In years past, we have taken down the tree and ornaments on January 2nd. It always makes me sad, but a crispy pine tree raining sharp needles, and empty gift boxes by the fireplace somehow seem sadder. I justify the rush to clean by telling myself and my children that if we left the decorations up year-round, it wouldn’t be as special when next Christmas comes around (although there is a Mexican restaurant in San Antonio, Texas, that might disagree).

However, this year, life got busy. Suddenly, every day seemed filled with school exams, sports practice, play rehearsals, and lots of work. So the tree and decorations remained up. I thought I would never have time to put things away, nor would I want to. The extra time with the colorful Christmas lights was warm and wonderful. But then about a week later, the tree just felt wrong. It didn’t belong in the house in mid-January. The garland seemed dusty. It was time. And somehow, it was not as sad taking it down now because the time felt right.

Maybe I’ve been forcing myself to put away the holiday ornamentation too soon. Ironically, I’m usually the one to hang on to things for sentimental reasons. I mean, it’s not like there is some kind of official deadline. Heck, the Three Kings didn’t even arrive in Bethlehem until nearly two weeks after Jesus’ birth. What’s the harm in keeping the ornaments up a little longer? In various parts of the world, trees stay up until January 6th, Three Kings Day or Epiphany. The date marks the arrival in Bethlehem of the three wise men, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, after a star guided them to the site of the newborn Christ child. Some cultures celebrate the day with bonfires (burning the Christmas trees), caroling or “star singing,” feasting, and the giving of yet more presents. Shopping malls haven’t figured out how to capitalize on Epiphany yet, but give them time…

So this year was a blessing in disguise. I didn’t overthink taking down the tree. In fact, the foliage stayed green and fresh longer than usual. I let things unfold on their own, and it just felt right. This is a lesson that I hope to apply to other aspects of my life:  relax, let go, worry less, and everything in its own time.

As we are reminded by a popular Bible verse (or a song by The Byrds, depending on your perspective):

 “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven…
 time to keep, and a time to throw away…”

May the New Year bring you all you wish for…in time.

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