TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS? ONE’S ENOUGH!

I’m writing this on the so-called fifth day of Christmas. When my true love is supposed to be giving me five gold rings. Which, according to a quick search on Google, are supposed to represent the first five books of the Bible’s Old Testament. Apparently, the whole song was a secret code for Catholics when Catholicism was banned back in the day. So the first day of a Partridge in a Pear Tree represents Jesus, the two turtle doves on the second are the Old and New Testaments, up to the twelve drummers drumming, who represent the twelve points of the apostle’s creed. It makes Wink Martindale’s Deck of Cards seem almost plausible! (A song from the sixties, if you don’t know it! Made the top ten, too, which seems even less plausible! May Bygraves did a version in the UK, too.)

I’d have the decorations down as soon as the guests have left. And in COVID-infested times, when guests are few and far between, that could even have been Christmas night!

It’s bad enough finishing off the leftover turkey or nut roast, the bread sauce and the cranberry, not to mention the mountain of cheese that was bought in a frenzy the week before and sits untouched in the fridge. When Christmas is over, get the decorations down!

Using the twelve days as a marker for keeping up the decorations is a step too far for me. Tradition has them in place until twelfth night, and that it’s bad luck to leave them up for longer. Even worse would be to follow a tradition from Medieval times that has them left until the 2nd of February. None of this works, to my mind.  Christmas Day and – at a push -Boxing Day are enough.

I’d have the decorations down as soon as the guests have left. And in COVID-infested times, when guests are few and far between, that could even have been Christmas night! It’s bad enough finishing off the leftover turkey or nut roast, the bread sauce and the cranberry, not to mention the mountain of cheese that was bought in a frenzy the week before and sits untouched in the fridge. Who needs leftover tinsel, candy sticks and gaudy ornaments? Take them down!

I should say that, in principle, I love the jollity and happiness around Christmas – and I’m really very sorry for anyone reading this who was unable to enjoy it for personal reasons. But it seems to me that the celebrations should surely be the day itself – and before that, the fun of expectation and anticipation.

I used to bemoan the first decorations appearing in shops during October, with Slade blaring out not long after. I’ve since come to appreciate how they signal the approach of the joy and excitement that is the Christmas spirit. It’s all about looking forward with hope and positivity – buying the tree, putting up the decorations, searching for presents that delight, preparing for the big day.

I often used to miss out on the excitement – it’s amazing how people create artificial deadlines for just before Christmas, tying you to work, even though nothing then happened for a month or more. And there can be a load of hassle in getting organused and setting up. But despite the frenzy, it’s worth trying to take some time before the day. This is when the carols are sung, trees still smell of pine and their needles haven’t dropped, all the bulbs in the light strings are working and the batteries haven’t run out, and everyone is wishing you a ‘Merry Christmas’. The atmosphere is bright and positive. A magical time to dream of something special.

Afterwards? It’s all as stale as the rotting Roquefort, untouched, alongside the Christmas ale still chilling and the brandy cream that was never used as everyone was too stuffed to eat the Christmas pudding. 

And what a sad sight is the lights still illuminating empty streets, beaming to no-one, the party well and truly over.

Thoughts now are not on what to buy but where to put the stuff you’ve been given, what to keep, what to return or give away, and trying to eat everything before it passes its best-before date. And on going back to work, things left unfinished, new tasks, new projects.

Yet in the corner of the living room stands a sad, bedraggled tree, branches sagging, lights rarely switched on, reminding you that Christmas is over, baiting you of the things you’d hoped for that disappointed.

Of course, getting rid is interrupted by the second celebration, New Year. So invariably I resist stripping out the decorations until January. But come the 1st, I’m ready to begin. Except, while you’d think I’d relish the moment, there’s a catch. I hate taking down the decorations! It’s as tedious as it is depressing. As I’m winding the lights from the tree, with needles dropping everywhere, I find myself asking what were we doing bringing it into the house in the first place. Or why we covered it in such fragile and absurd decorations.

Worse, the very act of denuding it, heaping the baubles, angels and stars into boxes and to the back of the cupboard until next year is like abandoning the joy, happiness and goodwill they represented.

And the forlorn trees dumped on street corners are a poignant reminder of the anticipation, now replaced by the reality of the present.

Yet the longer it all remains in the house, the sadder it becomes. So my philosophy is to keep on moving forward – enjoy the build-up, make the most of the holidays, then make the removal quick and early.

And anyway, it’s not long to Easter!

If you enjoyed reading this, why not try Richard’s novel, Homeward Bound, still available in paperback and Kindle and from bookshops.

Author: Richard Smith

I'm a writer and storyteller and for much if my life produced sponsored films and commercials. Subjects were as varied as bananas in Cameroon, oil from the North Sea, fighting organised crime and caring for older people. Their aim was always to make a positive difference, but, worryingly, two commercials I worked on featured in a British Library exhibition, ‘Propaganda’.

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