starbucks cup, red door, brown leaf

Sarah Gilbert via Compfight

The saddest place in America is Starbucks the day they stop using the red cups after Christmas. The second saddest place is the Christmas decorations aisle of the department store when all the leftover trimmings go on sale.

After all the anticipation starting at Thanksgiving, all of a sudden, Christmas is over.

Just. Over.

It comes. It goes. And we are left with a cleanup job we are hesitant to do.

Even if you celebrate Christmas the way it’s celebrated according to the liturgical calendar – Twelve Days, Epiphany, and all that – there is still something quite depressing about finally letting go of Christmas and getting back to the normal routine.

I drove down my street yesterday, looking at the houses that still had Christmas decorations up. I wondered if the folks inside just hadn’t gotten around to cleaning up or if they were keeping their decorations up to prolong the joy of the holiday season as long as possible.

I wondered if there were loved ones – maybe serving in the military – who hadn’t made it home yet. Maybe the decorations were ready for a delayed Christmas homecoming.

I wondered if the children and grandchildren were far off at Christmas. Maybe they were with the “other” parents and their families. Perhaps there was an unexpected crisis that postponed the holiday at home.

Maybe those families just can’t bear the thought of the effort required to take down and pack up.

For whatever reason, leftover decorations in the first full week of January seem, well…sad.

The routine beckons. There are things to do. The kids are back in school. The office will be in full swing. It’s back to “normal,” whatever that means these days.

But I say there’s an antidote. I say take the decorations down, fine.

But I also say keep Christmas alive all week, all month, and yep…even all year long. That’s the transformative power of Christmas in its truest sense. That’s how crotchety old Scrooge changed to generous new Ebenezer. He said, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol).

Sad to see Christmas end? Sure! Disappointed that it’s over, at least for another year? Absolutely! But until Labor  Day (when everyone starts listening to Christmas music!), you and I can keep the joy of Christmas alive.