What I love best about Christmas is when it is over. I am warm to the idea of decorating with twinkling lights to make the short days and long nights more festive, and trimming a tree. There are few things better than having an excuse to overeat other peoples holiday foods. And at some point I am grateful to have the opportunity to exchange presents although not when Im agonizing over sizes and choices or wrapping gifts at 2 in the morning.
But its like planning a wedding for a daughter every year. You wear yourself out with the details, she walks down the aisle, leaves with a man, and all youre left with are a pile of bills. Christmas, of course, is more wearing since it happens every single year; but with Christmas, the honeymoon lasts from December 26 to Thanksgiving 11 months of post-holiday bliss.
Anytime its not Christmas is my favorite time of year. No forced shopping. No pressure to cook for a crowd and have everything ready at the same time. No holiday knick knacks crowding surfaces I like to keep bare or bags of stuff accumulating that will need to be prepped to appear gift-like. No Christmas in the City street of apartments and stores with lights in them and tiny porcelain carolers who lose another limb each year or cotton for snow.
When I was raising my children everyone left decorations up through New Years Day to keep the celebration going. Back then, when the world was full of real Christmas trees, I would have pricked my fingers more times than a diabetic on insulin on the dry pine needles which would stay embedded in the carpet forever. Also, the tree would have fallen over several times, whipped by our Labrador retrievers tale (before we realized we had to tie it to the ceiling with fishing line, the tree not the dog). There would be a mildewed spot underneath the tree tray from water spilling. The days after Christmas were for returning presents to crowded stores or sorting clothing to take to Goodwill to make room for new things. The floor was a landmine of tripping traps with boy toys strewn across the living room while they played Nintendo and we ate Christmas Day leftovers.Then one unusually warm-for-the-Midwest year I boldly threw everything out the day after Christmas. The tree went first, laid to rest in a shroud-like sheet and toted to the curb. The lights were ripped off outside bushes and the porch and tossed into big bags without trying to separate and curl strands for next year. The ornaments were thrown into a box with no regard for breakage. And the kids took their things to their rooms since it was no longer holiday central.
The next year, I started the end of Christmas even earlier -- right after the kids had opened their gifts and wed had breakfast. By lunchtime almost every vestige of Christmas was gone, including the wreath on the door. The following year I got a fake tree that already had lights on it. It looked so good I hardly put any ornaments on it, which made it even easier to take down.Now I live in South Florida. I gave the Christmas village and Carousel that played carols to my daughter-in-law for the grandchildren. My decorating is limited to my kitchen window where I have sparkly artificial fruit displayed on upside down wine glasses, little fake wrapped presents, and candles that will never be lit. People in the condo courtyard will have a Christmas Eve feast and Ill bring the wine. No one here cuts their own trees like in the Midwest, or even has a real tree. But there are two towering Norfolk pines outside my door that a neighbor planted 20 years ago when friends gave them to her in small pots for Christmas. For me, they make every day a holiday, winter, summer, spring, fall. I love the gift of it not being Christmas.Judy Kirkwood wishes everyone a speedy recovering from Christmas 2010.