Christmas Tree Ups and Downs

I had my bubble burst in the bank yesterday. The bubble that said that now that I am here in laid-back California, I won’t have to adhere to rules about when Christmas trees go up and down.

Having lived in Atlanta for more years than I like to count, I knew too well that in the South these rules are serious business.

Actually, in the South, the putting up is not as critical as the taking down. Putting up happens at Thanksgiving, or as soon after as is humanly possible–the next day at the latest, which to my tastes is way too early. As far as I know, there are no real or imagined threats of bodily harm to those who do not conform to the putting up rule, although the non-conformists will be ostracized from all forms of polite society…and the South can be very polite.

But the taking down is where things become so rigid that they make George Bush’s policy on Iraq seem as limp as a cooked linguini. All trees must come down before New Year’s Day…or else! And the ‘or else’ is where they stick you with the threat of a whole year’s worth of bad luck if this one rule is broken. Not even the eating of collard greens and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day will redeem you if your tree is still up. If your tree is up come January 1, you are doomed.

Actually, I think this has all been thought up by the garbage men who don’t want the drudgery of tree pick-up drawn out over weeks–or months, as the more slovenly would likely tend to.

Where I grew up in western New York State, there were no rules about Christmas trees comings and goings. Christmas trees went up after my birthday in mid-December, and although there was never a decree stating that, that’s just the way it was. Still a whole two weeks to go before Christmas, so there was hardly a rush.

Trees were taken down when they were ready to come down, but always after New Year’s Day. You needed the tree there to lend atmosphere to the endless parade of football games on TV. If the tree hadn’t been there, you might have gotten confused and thought it was Thanksgiving–which was one very good reason that trees were never put up as early as that. We took our tree down the weekend after New Year’s.

I knew a family in Michigan whose practice it was to leave the tree up year round. Naturally, by the time the 4th of July came around, it looked a bit different than it had six months earlier. Instead of being nice and green and covered with pine needles it was totally brown and completely nude. But it still served many purposes.

Throughout the year that tree sported decorations for all holidays–hearts for Valentine’s Day, shamrocks for St. Patrick’s, eggs for Easter, flags for anything patriotic, pumpkins, turkeys…you get the idea. In between holidays it was everything from a hat rack to a message board. It was an endlessly useful and enterprising addition to that house, and It only came down when being replaced by its successor the next Christmas.

I hadn’t, however, considered going to that extreme of a year-round tree in my house, but I was relaxing with the idea of not having to hurry up to get it down before it or I was ready. And then I went to the bank.

Don’t ask me how the conversation started, but the 20-something teller was telling me about her plans to get her Christmas tree this coming weekend–the second one in December–and was lamenting that it was already late.

She went on to say that since the tree only had such a short time, given that it had to be taken down on New Year’s Day…and that’s when I stopped her and asked whatever was she talking about.

According to her, it seems that everyone knows that that is the day for taking down Christmas trees in California and, she assumed, everywhere else–no questions asked. That’s just how it is. No threats of bad luck attached if someone doesn’t comply, as according to her, everyone does.

Well, that was news to me, and with that my laid-back California bubble was resoundingly burst.

Quite obviuosly there was only one solution, and I made a decision right then and there. Next year I’m moving to Michigan.

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