Taking down Christmas


By Dave Ongie

This past week, I had the pleasure of meeting Bob and Nansee Williams while taking pictures for an upcoming feature story Lynn Richardson is writing on Bob’s restoration of a classic Rolls Royce.

As Nansee walked me through the lovely Carriage House Bed & Breakfast, she lamented the chore of “taking down Christmas.” I certainly felt her pain.

There are few things in life as magical as decorating for the holidays. Fueled by hot chocolate and the docile tones of Burl Ives, it hardly feels like work. The tree is trimmed, the lights are hung and the quaint ceramic Christmas village seemingly assembles itself while its jolly residents take their places around the tiny town square.

Once everything is in its place, I always enjoy sinking down into my sofa and basking in the glow of the twinkling Christmas lights.

By the beginning of January, however, the thrill is gone. A dried-out tree is dropping needles all over our living room, there are breakable knick-knacks that need to be carefully packed into boxes and placed back into the attic and a seemingly endless strings of lights are hanging on the front of the house eagerly waiting to tangle themselves into impossible knots.

A few years ago, I was reminded of the tradition of “Old Christmas,” which used to be celebrated on Jan. 6. Turns out, “The 12 Days of Christmas” isn’t just a song. Apparently in the old days they started celebrating on Dec. 25 and didn’t wrap it up until Jan. 6.

I instantly embraced the concept for the sole reason that it bought me an extra week before I had to pack up Christmas and stuff it into the attic. Don’t call me a procrastinator – I’m merely a traditionalist. But Jan. 7 inevitably rolls around each year, and I know if the decorations don’t come down soon, the neighbors will start to look at me funny.

The tree always goes first, and the extra week doesn’t make the job of unwinding the strands of lights any easier. Last year the tree got so dried out that we had to take the fight outside. As I pushed the carcass of that Frasier fir out the front door, a flurry of brown needles exploded in all directions.

My neighbor – who had erased all evidence of Christmas from his house on Jan. 2 – looked on in subdued amusement as I straddled that tree in the middle of my front yard and proceeded to unwind those lights with reckless abandon. The tree scratched and clawed at my hands and arms in a final show of defiance, but it only delayed the inevitable. I eventually got that tree to the curb, leaving behind a tangled ball of lights, which I threw into a Tupperware container and forgot about until this past November.

The last step is always putting away the Christmas village, and it is no piece of cake. Each building has to be unplugged, entombed in a block of Styrofoam and shoved into a cardboard box that seems to shrink a quarter inch during that month and a half between unpacking and repacking.

It’s enough to make me wish I could leave the buildings out and replace the holiday figurines with little ceramic people doing normal things. If I swapped out the mailman with his bag full of brightly-wrapped presents for a mailman trudging along with a sack full of credit card statements, I’d be off to a good start.

A line of figurines designed to make Christmas villages socially acceptable in any season – now there’s an idea. That could wind up being quite a cottage industry.


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