6 January — Epiphany, Three Kings, Twelfth Night, Little Christmas, Christmas itself for Orthodox Christians, and the end of the Jule Month for us.
The first of our decorations were up for Saint Nicholas Day, 31 days ago, and for us the holiday began. It was during this time each year that our ancestors strove with bonfires to attract the sun back from its annual retreat, and it is during this time that we celebrate with candles and small electric lights scattered about the house the changing of the year. Now comes the end of this year’s festival of lights. It will still be some months before the sun returns, but the days gradually become longer and we can begin to think about greeting the spring.
Tomorrow we will take our decorations down. The first ornaments that went up on Saint Nicholas Day, Julenissen, the holiday candles, and the angel chimes, will return to the “Saint Nicholas Day” box; the Julebukk will return to his non-holiday abode; and the ceramic tree will be packed away in safety.
Greenery on doors and windows, window candles, and incidental decorations will also vanish from the house. The hardest part of “undecorating” will probably be last. The Christmas Tree must be dismantled ornament by ornament, each ornament returning to its correct place in the storage box. And, finally, I will carry the tree itself out the door, carefully so that I scatter no more water and needles on the floor than absolutely necessary, and make it ready to become mulch and compost. Thus the old year helps to generate the new.