The Swedish traditions for the holidays are to leave the tree up well into January, a way to preserve some of the spirit of the season into the new year. And, really, doesn't that alone recommend Swedish culture? Who else gives you Christmas that lasts almost an entire month?
(I got that from a book I gave to a friend to help her grow accustomed to the ways of the American Swede she married. Welcome to the family!)
Today the tinsel came down, the baubles came off, and I carefully repacked the lights. I remember how, as a child, my father explained that one day I would be the Man of the House. Most men can recall some version of that conversation, I find, and for years I dismissed those talks, as we do, or considered them cheerfully anachronistic (also, they usually involve a discussion of lawn mowing). As with many things (including lawn mowing), I can admit in middle age that my father was, in at least some sense, right. Even gay men will, at some point, have to learn what it is to be a man. And that being a man is okay. And as I carefully put away the Christmas lights, I feel the reality of being that man.
Taking down the Christmas tree this year feels, like so many things, somewhat bittersweet. Christmas is definitely over; it's time to move on. Onward and upward... that's my approach to the year so far. The presents I got were fine - a nice new pair of Puma sneaks for work, a couple of lovely cookbooks (with elaborate recipes I'm not sure I can attempt), the DVD collection of a British series featuring psychopathic killers - these are my simple pleasures.
And yet... there's a sadness, a sense of the things that are missing, time passing too fast. I can't explain it all that well, and I worry that this is what life is these days, something not quite good enough, quietly disappointing. That's not the Christmas spirit I was raised on, and I feel a little lost without it.
All of which is why, more than most years, I feel like putting away Christmas, while necessary, can't really be an improvement. January just looks darker, and all the more grim, with the candles snuffed out, and the twinkling lights stored away in the basement. More than most years... I wish every day could be like Christmas, this year. I really do.