I'm watching my daughter's family take down their 2011 Christmas tree and thinking about what a bittersweet moment it is.
In our family at least, we approach the Christmas season with so much anticipation. In its own way it is the High Holy Day. I know that in Gospel terms, Easter is probably more important (if I may use that term), but Christmas is Family, and Giving, and Happy, and our Savior all rolled into one.
The day after Thanksgiving, weather permitting, is Christmas Tree Day. Mostly all my children's families follow this tradition. They look forward to it, and those who can go out and cut a fresh one. The choice of a tree is full of passion and some level of compromise. It is generally trimmed that day, or at least by the end of the weekend.
Even just getting out the boxes and bins of ornaments is loaded with emotion, as old, familiar friendships are renewed. Some of these are just baubles that have withstood the test of time and small fingers. Others are homemade, with the picture of a kindergardener pasted on it, or one with a year on it, a symbol of a special time that may not even be remembered.
Over the next month gifts start to appear. They arrive in the mail, they get wrapped early just because, and sometimes we never even figure out where they came from.
Wherever the tree is, that's where the gifts stay for the next week, in little piles by person. The wrapping paper has been (very carefully) thrown away, but the room is an extension of everyone's bedroom and closet.
Then comes the New Year, and It's Time. We regret the end of Christmas. We put everything away, out of sight, but certainly not out of mind. The tree gets consigned to the curb, to be picked up some day by the garbage collectors. We de-Christmas the whole house.
We have a saying in our family, whenever someone asks what something is that we don't want them to know about yet. We tell them "It's too close to Christmas".