There are all sorts of debates about when Christmas actually ends. Liturgically speaking, we know that it does NOT end on December 26th. In fact, it is just as much Christmas on December 26th as it was on December 25th. It is, liturgically speaking, full-strength Christmas through January 1st. After that things get a little hazy. The “twelve days of Christmas” end on January 5th. The liturgical Christmas season in the new calendar ends with the Baptism of the Lord which is celebrated on the Sunday after Epiphany. But in the old calendar, “Christmas-tide” continues until February 2nd, Candlemas. And there is nothing in the new calendar that prohibits celebrating until February 2nd.
At the end of the day, a Christmas Tree is not inherently liturgical and it really is up to personal preference when it comes down. But here are the reasons mine is still up:
- I like it. The children like it. I think sometimes, with all our supposed freedom from old laws and rules, we moderns can be quite puritanical. Too much mess, too much frivolity, there must be an end to it! Despite my deep love for Christmas, as a mother of five I have begun to feel the desire to end Christmas a little earlier. It is AMAZING what disorder Christmas brings to a young family— and there is enough disorder during our normal days! But I also remember how I used to ask my mother to leave the Christmas mess on the living room floor— wrapping paper, boxes, everything— as long as possible. From my vantage point, it was one of the happiest sights in the world. Now that I’m grown up, I just have to remember to look.
- We need a little Christmas. I’ve heard that more people have been putting out decorations this year in general and leaving them up later. I think we will all remember the phenomenon of lit-up houses in March of 2020! Christmas soothes the soul. And many people needed that especially last year. But any year could be like last year. Any year could be 2020. Every year brings with it pain and sorrow, for some more than others. And Christmas can bring joy and peace.
- I want the party to end naturally. At some point, people get tired. The wine runs out. The cake is finished. There is a natural progression to festivity. And Christmas should have its own time and its own good party. It always bothered me that Advent, Lent, and Easter were all 25-50 days long. Christmas was only 12! Then I learned about Candlemas and it all made sense. 40 is a good number. I think there’s even something natural about it. Notably, commercial culture has stretched Christmas to start around Thanksgiving and end with New Years, adding up to about 40 days. 40 days of feast, 40 days of fast. There’s an ancient rhythm and I want to respect it.
- This is the easiest time to do things differently. It’s always difficult to feel Christmas-y when the stores and neighborhoods have taken everything down. But now, since so many of us are mostly at home, home becomes everything. Home sets the standard for normal.
- It could be the last. Christmas of 2019/2020 I decided to take down my Christmas decorations and turn off the Christmas music after the Baptism of the Lord. Candlemas just seemed too far away to keep things going. But then a few days after I took it down I changed my mind. In a flurry of frivolity, we put things back and we turned on the music. On January 31st, we decided to drive two and a half hours to see some snow, since we hadn’t gotten any that year. I’ll never forget my kids singing Christmas carols as we wound up a mountain through a winter wonderland just weeks before the world would fall into chaos. If I had known what was to come, I would not have even considered ending Christmas early. We don’t know what is to come. We don’t know if we will be able to see friends and family or go to Church next Christmas. We don’t know what will happen to our country or our world. We don’t even know what will happen in our own lives. We never know what Christmas might be our last. So, while we can, let us do as the carol tells us, “rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.”