Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Taking Down the Christmas Tree

Desire cheats you. It’s like a sunbeam skipping here and there around a room. It stops and guilds some inconsequential object, and we poor fools try to grasp it. But when we do, the sunbeam moves on to something else, and you’ve got the inconsequential part. The glitter that made you want it is gone.”   

             - F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Beautiful and the Damned


The Christmas Season is a sunbeam shining on the things we’ve chosen to ornament our homes and making them glitter yet more brightly— the lights round the windows, the holly and mistletoe, the tree brought indoors and radiant with precious ornaments carrying the stories of family and former times. All of it framed with the songs that open our hearts, the tastes that tickle the tongue, the feel of the wrapping paper and the heft of the gifts, the warmth of the fire and the smell of the mulled wine. It is art, it is theater, it is ritual, all designed to evoke the magic and mystery missing in our day-to-day life and now awakening into the glint and glitter and gleam and glamor, the sparkle and splendor, the shine and the shimmer, the twinkle and the dazzle. Life—all of it— is heightened and we glide where once we trudged, are lifted up where once we felt weighted down, feel cozy and comforted where once we felt the chaos and confusion. 


Then without warning, the day arrives when we simply can’t hear Jingle Bells one more time without screaming and even the notes of Silent Night fall flat. The egg nog suddenly tastes sickenly sweet, the gifts are now a problem as to where they will be stored, the tree just takes up way too much room and the ornaments feel like so much dead weight. The sunbeam has moved on and the glitter that made it magical is gone. 


I thought we should dismantle the Season on January 6th, the 12th day of Christmas, but this sense of “it’s over” has nothing to do with calendars, comes from the inside as an intuition to be wholly trusted, insists that you admit it’s time. And so this afternoon is when we will unadorn the Norfolk pine from its lights and trinkets and move it back into the lightwell where it lives the rest of the year. We’ll tuck the ornaments back into their boxes, fold up the stockings, pour the egg nog down the drain and resume our secular life. 

The sunbeam now shines on "normal" and suddenly, it's exactly the level of glitter we want.


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