Every January, I feel Christmas joy drain from me faster than the needles fall off of our dead Christmas tree. I start unwinding garland and boxing up ornaments, and the kids halt their train-play in astonishment: “Why are you taking down our Christmas tree, Mama?”
I sigh and choke back tears (I know I am way too sentimental about these things): “Because Christmas is over, guys.”
It takes me several weeks to box up the decorations and talk Jack into getting down the ladder so he can stuff it all back up in the attic for another year. I mourn the empty spot in the corner where the tree sparkled up the living room. I shiver as I walk up and down our wooden staircase, which now seems so naked without advent stockings and Christmas garland. And I wonder why, when I truly believe that Jesus comes for me–over and over again–and loves me without stop or season or trim, why I am so dependent on the Christmas cheer to fuel a Christ-filled joy?
For several years, I truly wondered if I was missing the spiritual blessings of sustaining Christmas joy because of some lack in my spirit. I tried more earnestly to reclaim the cheer, only to find myself truly depressed by February 1st. The Christmas takedown blues, as I like to call them, will morph you ugly if you turn them into a blame game.
So, last year I asked myself a simple question: what about taking down Christmas is so depressing? Maybe the answer is more simple than shallow, more chemical than spiritual? Maybe it’s the colors and the lights of Christmas that keep my brain twinkling in a part of the world where we endure months without a glimpse of blue sky?
And then it hit me like a bolt of lighting grace: it’s not spiritual lack that gets me so down! My brain craves color and light during the darkest part of the year, at the precise time I strip the house of bright, twinkly Christmas. It’s the lack of the color red and twinkle lights that I’m craving! Could it be that simple?
And I wondered to myself if stripping the house of the color red was literally my reason for getting depressed after Christmas? If such a simple thing can make such a big difference to my brain, why not keep some twinkle lights up in the darkest part of the year, until spring breaks forth a new dawning? Why not tuck some red winter berries into a few garlands and leave them on the mantle? Why not give myself the things I may just need to stay happy and joyful even after the manger gets tucked back in the attic?
Better yet: how ’bout going a little crazy on New Years decorations? It becomes much more difficult to be lost in the bowels of depression if every where I turn I see a glittery “Happy New Year,” and a sparkly celebration of life, a new start, and the possibility of a new me. (Ok: I know this may be a little corny. But sometimes you just have to fake it until you make it, right?)
What if busied myself with the projects I wanted to do this Christmas, but didn’t have time to do? Or, by crafting a snowman out of grapevine wreaths for the front door, or stuffing old socks with my kids and stacking them up into goofy snow friends? For my crafting and decorating ideas, check out my “January Twinkle” board on pinterest.
January may be cold and it may mean it’s time to reign in spending and throw the junk food away, but it doesn’t mean I can’t have something to look forward to. Do you know traditional Catholics celebrate 40 days of Christmas, right up until Candlemas Day on February 2? My dear friend, Abbie DeRuyter over at “Practice in Patience,” shared a great article on keeping the Christmas cheer going: “Catholics, Keep Your Trees Up!.
Having something to look forward to on the calendar helps my outlook tremendously. Planning an outing, like taking the kids up to Snoqualmie to go sledding on a Saturday, a gift-card-only shopping date with my hubby, or even a family afternoon/night out to see one of the many movies that came out over Christmas, can help me stay positive. Celebrating Epiphany on January 6 (or 7th or 8th or the weekend after), by making or buying a simple cake and donning paper crowns and reading about the Magis finally finding the Christ-child and lavishing him with gifts brings cheer into the darkest of days. Remember: Your kids won’t remember the date of the Ephiphany, but they will remember the cake, the crowns, the story (and the magic.)
While we’re at it, Why not fill the house with candy hearts and red felt and I love you’s throughout February? I found “I heart U” burlap last year that I cut into a table runner for the dining room table. It made me smile every time I looked at it.
Even though I do love burlap, my favorite part of decorating for February has become the endless numbers of vintage Valentines I’ve discovered I can download for free on-line. I print them and string them up in garlands, frame them, and prop them up in every room. For more Valentine’s ideas, visit my pinterest board “February Sparkle.”
Take heart: just because you take down the Christmas tree doesn’t mean you have to put away the cheer. Leave the lights up, keep the halls decked in color, and wrap twinkle around you like a chamois robe. Why not?