Is there such a thing as post holiday blues? If there is, I suppose I could understand why. After all, the holidays are filled with fun and family and fine food, aren’t they? They’re supposed to be at any rate. That’s the myth, and that’s the Disneyesque picture: lots to do, lots of people gathered round the tree in sweaters, drinking steaming cups of hot chocolate. And don’t forget the presents, too!
Of course, the truth of the matter is that most of us don’t have families that align very well with this storybook picture, even though we’ve seen it umpteen times on any number of holiday greeting cards. Thomas Kinkade hit on a similar and familiar formula, and made a fortune doing so, churning out painting after painting of happy homes nestled in the snow-covered dell next to a sparkling stream. You’ve seen them before: the light is streaming out of the curtained window, and it lands in a comfy, gleaming rectangle on the glittering, freshly fallen moon-lit snow.
It all sounds wonderful, and I actually don’t mean to sound overly crass or cynical about it. I love Christmas, as a matter of fact, and am more than happy to indulge in all of the loveable lore and all the comforting myth-making I can get my grubby hands on. But what about afterwards? What about taking Christmas down? What about putting all the decorations away for another year? I mean, for one thing, who knows what Christmas 2013 will bring? Will the world be a better place? Given what we’ve seen of human history, I’d have to say that the chances of that are slim, and I’ll be happy to settle at least for a not-worse one.
So, come January 1st each year, I have to say that I’m ready. I’ve drunk all the eggnog I can take, gained the two or three pounds I always gain from all of the luscious food that I’ve been eating, and seen enough of the glittering angels and the twinkling lights, and I’m ready to move on.
But believe me, it’s not a fun job taking the tree down. At our house, at least, it’s a major undertaking, because we decorate it pretty lavishly. We’ve been doing it for over 30 years, and that’s more than enough time to have built up a store, to have accumulated season after season of ornaments and trinkets and doodads, all of which have to be wrapped up in their own proper paper and put away in boxes for safe storage.
Still, maybe post partum (as in the title of this piece) is a bit too strong of an image. It is a term, after all, that translates to “after birth.” But while Christians celebrate Christmas only as the birth of Christ, I think of it as a combination of things. Let me say right off, too, that I am a great admirer of Christ, the Avatar of Love. It’s what some of his followers have done in his name that I have a beef with. In fact I think that, if he were around in a body today, he’d be pretty displeased with an awful lot of them. For me, though, Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s birth, and it’s a joyous acknowledgement of the Winter Solstice, a way of bringing light and warmth and joy to a time of year when the sun sets early, and even in Southern California there’s a chill in the morning air.
But the question arises, would I want to – I will use the word – prolong Christmas? Would I want to keep the decorations up and continue the music and the sipping of eggnog all year long? Or even until springtime comes round? And the answer has to be that I would not.
As difficult as it is to put away, there’s something cleansing about taking everything down for another year and stowing it away safely in the closet. There’s something refreshing and renewing about bringing the house back to the simplicity, or at least the relative simplicity, of its pre-decorated state, of clearing things away and starting afresh. There’s a reason why nature, and human beings in imitation of it, likes cycles. Cycles have an end, a time when things have run their course and need regeneration, revitalization, reinvigoration. We break things down into sections and seasons, into pieces we can handle.
Night gives way to morning, and morning to the brightness of the afternoon. The evening then follows, with its time for rest and restoration. Early January is like that, too. The coziness of Christmas is over, and the world takes a deep breath again and plunges back into its ongoing business.
That business is often bullying and brutal, granted, but it is what we have, and what we make of it. There’s a part of me, I’ll admit, that secretly longs for the next Holiday Season, that counts the months and looks forward to the beauty of next year’s celebration. In the meantime, however, it would be a mistake not to recognize the loveliness of January, too, with its chill and its rain and snow. After all, every season has something to celebrate, and I’m ready for the new year. What that year will amount to is yet to be revealed, and maybe I’ll live to eat my words. But I hope not. I hope that it will bring its own brand of creativity, and its own experiences that I can learn from.
There’s a reason why people say that hope springs eternal. It’s because we need that new thing to look forward to, that next adventure, that fresh challenge. And if taking down the old, and clearing things out in order to create a clean space for what is to come is what it takes, then so be it. I’ve been around long enough to know that the old will come round and become new again, and I’ll look forward to unpacking those boxes once more and to the celebration of the cozy and comforting Christmas of 2013 to come.