Friday, January 06, 2012

Which day is the proper day?

We’re just starting to exit one of the most awkward times of year. We all have a task to do, but there is no consensus as to when it should be done. As a result the end comes, not in one huge wave of silence, but in a slow fade.
I thought of this the other day as I watched crews take down the Christmas decorations in downtown Van Wert. It was after New Year’s Day, but then again, these were not private decorations. Workers were on the municipality’s schedule. But what about the rest of us? When should the tree come down? The lights on the house? The giant inflatable Santas? What is proper etiquette?
There are some people who will take down the tree on Dec. 26. Maybe it’s getting dried-out or it’s just in the way, so the decorations hit the storage boxes the morning after the big day and the tree is in flames by noon. Even folks with artificial trees can be in the Day After Club. It is more understandable years ago to get it out of the way, but the majority of people still have Christmas celebrations after Dec. 25 has been marked off the calendar. Why not leave the centerpiece of the interior decorations up until after you’ve finished the last of the leftovers from the last Christmas dinner?
On the other side of the coin, there are certain houses that leave decorations up far too long. You know who you are. Drive by a few houses on a warm April evening and check to see if any of them still have strands of icicle lights tacked to the roofline. They probably won’t be on, but they will be there just the same. Of course there are a few people who leave lights up year-round, calling them Valentine’s Day lights or July 4th lights, or Labor Day lights or Halloween lights. These people are special cases who have probably invented a way to change the color of the lights from green and blue to pink and red for February and then swapping hues for each successive holiday. These people have their own issues. We’ll leave them alone. But somewhere in the middle of the Day After Club and the Up Until April Fellowship is the proper answer.
As I did my research, I discovered some traditions of which I was unaware. Who knew that it all had to do with that long Christmas carol that is the holiday equivalent to “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall?” That’s right. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was the original guide for un-hauling out the holly. Today most people do not understand what the 12 days of Christmas are. While there is debate over some of the customs and about how to count days, for the most part, the days begin Dec. 26 (the First Day of Christmas) and conclude with Jan. 6 (the Twelfth Day of Christmas, or Epiphany). In any case, Twelfth Night, which is actually the evening of Jan. 5 is when Christmas decorations are to be taken down, according to custom. To top it off, if you leave your decorations up after Twelfth Night, the tradition states that you will have bad luck. I guess the bad luck could be having dozens of motorists driving by your lighted home and laughing at you. My research mentioned things like crops failing, spring not returning, and “mischief in the house.”
This being January 6, if you haven’t cleared out the stockings and the mistletoe and the “Dear Santa, I can explain...” coffee mug, it looks like you are in for a period of mischief in the house. My suggestion is to “fall back” a few hours for Christmas Saving Time and get it done. Hurry. The neighbors are laughing at you.

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