We took down our Christmas decorations this weekend, the second in February. And while, in the past, the lingering decorations were mostly about dreading the task, this year we made the decision much earlier–at the start of Advent, when the tree went up–to leave everything in place until 40 days after Christmas.
That was two Sundays ago, and because we wanted to enjoy the full 40 days, we didn’t take the decorations down last Sunday.
This year, 40 days after Christmas was February 2. This represents the day when Mary would have been able to return to the temple after childbirth and thus Jesus’ first visit there.
While many of our ornaments are not explicitly about the nativity of Jesus, many of them engage us with themes of childhood and remind us of how loved we are. Here are the new additions to our Christmas decorations this year.
Each year we add a few owls to our collection. Honey made the brown one last year and the purple one this year.
Each year, each child gets a new ornament made by local artists or purchased through a fair trade organization like 10,000 Villages. This year, Lamb received this whimsical glass owl, so there are at least half a dozen owls nesting in our Christmas tree this year. Mr. Prickles’ new ornament this year was a gnome.
And Bananas’ was a grasshopper carefully created from local grass.
Most years we also make ornaments, so our tree is a record of their childhood arts and crafts skills. This year, we made jingle bell angels from wire ribbon. More than a dozen of them covered our tree.
Each year, we paint ceramic ornaments. Most years, Mr. Prickles’ chooses a new snowman to add to his collection, and Lamb adds an angel. This year, Bananas picked a llama.
A trip to Lindsborg, Kansas (“Little Sweden USA”) found us in a shop that sells locally-made art and crafts as well as pieces imported from Sweden. This little heart reminds us of how much we love Kansas.
This little clown decorated my tree growing up, and my sister recently found him and sent him to me. My great-grandmother was alive most of my life, and while we saw her infrequently (We lived in different states.), receiving a big box from her each Christmas was one of the best parts of the year. They always included handmade gifts–some that she worked on for years–quilts and baby dolls–and others simple ornaments like this one.
A few years ago, we took a vacation with my extended family to the Poconos, staying at a house on a lake. A family of swans patrolled the shoreline–and let us know that we were not welcome there. We eventually made an unsteady peace with them, but it took some effort. (Including, at one point, a sea battle. While it’s easy enough to drive off swans with a hose from the shore, it’s harder to fight them with a canoe paddle on the lake.) My sister sent us this glass swan this year to commemorate the event.
Of all the birds who joined our tree this year, this felted cardinal might be my favorite.
Do you have a Christmas pickle? This one is new for us this year, a gift from my mother. Each year, the child who finds the Christmas pickle gets to open the first present. And, this year, a miracle followed: the children quite easily fell into a pattern of opening one present at a time, rather than everyone opening presents at once, so they could see what each other had received. They didn’t discuss it or protest it, just happily showed interest in each other.
My friend A. gave us the littlest, tiniest baby Jesus, made from beeswax.
On Christmas Eve, we open new pajamas, a robe, or slippers (whichever we most need), play a game or music, watch a movie, read a Christmas book together, and bake cookies to put out on our Santa Plate (alone with carrots for the reindeer). This year, our tree was a housewarming gift from our dear Auntie K., who not only set it up for us but added the (absurd number–1200!) lights and helped us decorate.
This year, a new angel came to grace our tree! A gift from my friend M., her name is Marian Zsofia–after the singer Marian Anderson and with a tribute to Poland, where M. traces her family history. Lighting her each night, we were reminded of how loved we are from people far and near.