In a shining (pun intended) example of irregularity in another topsy-turvy year, my Christmas tree is still up.
As someone who has dismantled the tree on New Year’s Day every year since 2004 (which is the year we started putting up our own tree, instead of just poaching the holiday ambiance of whatever relatives Jon and I were spending Christmas with that year), my extension of this year’s tree’s tenure is beyond unprecedented, it verges on scandalous. Up until now I’ve been on a strict “up the week before Christmas, down the week after” program, and no amount of cajoling on the part of my family has been able to bust me out of my rigid timeline.
Now, there’s a very good chance that my failure to pack up Christmas this year can be chalked up to pandemic-induced apathy, those episodes of existential self-examination that go along the lines of “What is the point of taking down Christmas when we’re just going to have to put it up again a year from now?” Indeed, I employ this line of reasoning in many contexts, most notably regarding vacuuming and washing exercise clothing. “What’s the point of [verbing] the [nouns] when you’re just doing to have to [verb] them again a [time period] from now?”
But there’s another possible rationalization, one that is not only more plausible but also more flattering, demonstrating maturity and, dare I say, wisdom. This explanation is simple: January has been a gray month, possible the grayest of all overcast Januarys, with a low-lying, oppressive steely ceiling. It’s not as bad as the stifling fug of our smoky August, but still, it’s a mood-crushing gray.
With its twinkly lights and sentimental doodads hanging from its branches, the Christmas tree is an antidote to the January fog. (A trip to Mexico would also be an antidote to the January fog, but I don’t see anybody dropping one of those in my living room, now do I?)
Plugging in the Christmas tree lights early each morning gives me a small jolt of happiness, a little sparkle before I peer out into the murky daybreak, noting once again the familiar, unwelcome, persistent gray. And apparently my neighbor can see our tree lights from her house, so with two strings of LED bulbs and a few cents of kilowatts each day, I give at least two households a daily dose of cheer.
Surprisingly, the tree hasn’t started dropped its needles yet, despite being cut almost exactly two months ago and installed indoors in mid-December. It has, however, stopped drinking water, so I know its days are numbered. That’s okay; it has served its purpose of illuminating our way through a dreary month. Sometimes that’s all we need — a little bit of light to guide us through to the other side of the gloom.