I have just about reached That Point.
Some of you may already have reached That Point; some of you may not reach That Point until some time next week or the week after; and some of you, patient saints that you are, are nowhere near That Point yet.
I didn't use to reach That Point so quickly. In some ways, having my oldest DD born on New Year's Eve helped That Point come faster, but in others, I'm sure just having children in general is responsible for the speed with which That Point arrives. Perhaps in years far distant, when my children are grown and I eagerly enjoy visits with them and the grandchildren (God willing!) That Point will get pushed off a little farther again, but for now, I start fighting the arrival of That Point as early as today. As early as three days after Christmas.
No, That Point has nothing to do with lost tempers or bad moods or the urge to clean every square inch of the house--those points have already come, and I'm sitting in a rather clean (for three days after Christmas!) living room as I write this. That Point isn't even about the plans I keep weaving for the next semester of school, which continually lace themselves in among my other thoughts. It's a lot simpler and more mundane.
That Point is the point at which I start hankering to take down and put away the Christmas decorations.
Now, I know perfectly well that Christmas is a season, and it isn't over yet. I know that leaving up the signs and symbols of Christmas helps us focus on the real meaning behind all the celebrating. I'm aware of the fact that the Wise Men aren't even supposed to be at the Nativity scene, yet, although they often arrive ahead of schedule in our house.
I know that outside decorations aren't the problem, either--I'm very minimalist when it comes to outside decorating, which is a much nicer thing to say than that I'm lazy. We have electric candles in the windows; we sometimes put lights on the front bushes. We didn't this year, so the candles are it--not exactly a huge burden to take down and put away.
Our indoor decorations are modest, too: we have two Nativity sets, the Jesse tree, a couple of candles and assorted Christmas-themed knicknacks. Oh, and the Christmas tree, of course.
Of course. And of course it's the Christmas tree that I'm eager to take down.
It's an artificial tree--my allergies can be bad enough this time of year without adding a live tree to the atmosphere, unfortunately. So I'm not having the "dying brown branches/needles all over the floor" problem that some people are having by now. It's not a huge tree, either--but then, the den it's in isn't a huge room. And it has to be in the den because that's where the fireplace is--the one year we tried putting it in the bigger living room didn't work out well at all.
It's decorated with lots of memories, ornaments I received as a child, ornaments my children have been receiving for the past several years. Putting up the ornaments on Gaudete Sunday is something the girls and I eagerly anticipate every year. We play Christmas music, eat cookies, and talk about where the 'favorite' ornaments came from. It's a Christmas tradition we very much enjoy.
Taking the ornaments down is more of a chore, really. Some years I sneak the boxes inside after the children are in bed and do the whole thing myself. In a way, I enjoy that, too--knowing that the next time the ornaments appear it will be the beginning of another joyous Christmas season, a new year of hopes and dreams and memories behind us again. I may not be playing Christmas music, and the cookies have been banished with the dawn of the New Year's Diet, but there's something very peaceful about it all.
Maybe it all has something to do with the many moves my family made when I was a child. Taking down the Christmas tree is a little like packing, and packing, ironically enough, reminds me of home. Perhaps putting away the tree opens up the space in the corner again and makes me think of the new year and all its new possibilities, thoughts that begin to drift through my mind as soon as I see my oldest daughter's birthday begin to approach on the calendar.
Christmas is a season, and since January 6, Epiphany, actually falls on a Sunday this year the tree won't really come down until at least the Monday or Tuesday after that. I may have started to reach That Point, but I can wait.