Advice for Avoiding Goblins and Drummers

A few days ago, on January first, I took down my Christmas decorations. I did this for a few reasons. First, as much as I love the holiday season, after six weeks of it, I do get tired. And it really is six weeks at our house. We decorate the day after Thanksgiving, more or less without fail and remain decorated until at least the new year.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time, then you may recall that our version of decorating is no small task. It involves nine feet of Christmas tree, snowflake throw pillows, much garland wrapping, and lighted geese in the front yard. This is nowhere near an exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea. As it says on our seasonal welcome mat, we’re like really into Christmas.

Second, after a Christmas spent with the deep freezer working overtime, the Midwest offered up a miraculous sixty-degree, sunny day perfect for pulling up lantern stakes from the yard and removing light strings from the roof. If I could ignore the coming two-and-a-half months of cold that remain this winter, it felt a bit like a spring cleaning kind of day.

I’m talking about the kind of day in which one might take a minute organize the Christmas storage boxes in the basement instead of continuing to shove the reindeer salt and pepper shakers into the same box as that string of broken lights that may offer up some replacement bulbs for the ones we used to use that looked kind of similar, except they included purple bulbs in addition to red, green, blue, and yellow.* That’s right. Not only did I put away our cherished Christmas decorations. I threw away a bunch of old, broken ones we no longer use. I was basically on fire.

The 2022 calculated cost of the gifts in Twelve Days of Christmas is $45,523.27. In case you needed another inflation index, that’s up 10.5% from 2021. Image by wal_172619 from Pixabay

And obviously the third reason I took down the Christmas decorations promptly on January first is because I didn’t want to risk, depending on who you ask, a case of bad luck, a possible goblin invasion, or the shock of hosting twelve drummers drumming in my home.

Because evidently Christian tradition dating back to the sixth century suggests that holiday decorations are perfectly acceptable at least until Epiphany, the day the wise men arrive on scene and twelfth and final day of Christmas. To leave them up any longer is, for many, a holiday faux pas that might just bring you bad luck or goblins or at the very least a disgruntled homeowners association.

I’m not sure I fully understand. Outside of singing the song about giving someone an alarming number of birds, I have never observed the twelve days of Christmas. Most of the traditions I grew up with and have continued in my own home occur in the lead up to and on the day of Christmas itself, which is why by the twelfth day of Christmas, on January 5th or 6th (depending on particular brand of Christianity or perhaps counting habits), I’m plum tired out.

I didn’t even put them away in a wadded mess this year. Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Right now, I’m looking around my bland, non-Christmas-decorated house on a day that is neither sixty degrees nor sunny, and I’m grateful to have gotten all the work out of the way several days ago. I’m also happy to report that there doesn’t seem to be a penalty for taking the decorations down early.

But if yours are still up, then today might just be the day. I tell you this because I care and because I don’t want to see your home invaded by goblins. Or drummers.

*I wish I could honestly claim this isn’t a real example from my life, but it is.

The State of Christmas Puke

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad December is finally here. The last half of November is a little bit of a blur to me. It included two memorial services, lots of family visiting, many houseguests, a gigantic gathering for Thanksgiving at my house, and a book launch.

It’s not as bad as it might seem at first glance. I enjoyed catching up with family I don’t see very often. My houseguests were helpful people who I love a lot and, for a while, included an exceptionally snuggly six-month-old. Big family holiday gatherings, while chaotic, are also really fun and this one was no exception. The memorial services were emotionally challenging, but ultimately uplifting, too. And the book launch was stressful, with ongoing promotional efforts that fall way outside my comfort zone, so pretty much exactly what I expected there.

Still, I’m tired. My family is tired. My dog is probably going to do nothing but nap for the next month. And my house is kind of messy. I wasn’t sorry to see the month of November fade into the past. We all are in need of a little Christmas.

Who needs an elf on the shelf when you’ve got one of these?

I have mentioned in this space before that I’m married to a man who likes Christmas lights. Early on in our marriage, he liked Christmas lights a lot more than I did, though over the years he has slowly converted me. I think this is partly the fault of the Christmas light industry because lights are so much more efficient and long lasting than they used to be. There was a time when it made perfect sense to buy one new decorative something each year, because surely one of the older ones had run its course. Now they just accumulate. And I have learned to embrace it.

He put up lights the Saturday after Thanksgiving this year, the same time I decorated the tree, wrapped the banisters in garland, set up the nativity scene, and found a home for our Hawaiian shirt-clad Santa garden gnome.

When it was all done, we gathered together to take in the scene, including colorful lights along the roof line, glittering ice cycles above the front door, snowflakes dangling above the garage, a lighted wreath, two giant neon snowflakes above the front windows, chasing lights lining the driveway, a glowing snowman, and holiday projections. That’s not actually the full list, and if you’ve read my book, Launching Sheep & Other Stories, yes, we still have the Christmas geese, though they have undergone major surgery in the last few years.

Maybe we could be the Show Me Your Christmas Geese State.

It’s almost more than I can fully take in. As one of my oh-so-charming sons declared, it’s like “Christmas puked on our house.” Gross as it may sound, that is probably an apt description, and it even feels somehow appropriate since I recently learned that we live in “The Puke State.”

Missouri had quite a few nicknames over the years before settling on the current “Show Me State” boldly proclaimed on our license plates. Our most disgusting one allegedly arose from the 1827 discovery of lead ore near the town of Galena in the northern part of Illinois. Citizens of Missouri were quick to take notice and swarm to the area in hopes of growing rich on the mining boom.

And boy did they swarm, so much so that former Illinois Governor Thomas Ford wrote in 1854, it was as if Missouri had puked onto its neighboring state. And that’s how we became The Puke State, and how Missourians came to be known as Pukes. Of course, if one looks at current population trends, we could give the nickname back to Illinois.

My current welcome mat, and also a possibility for a state slogan without the word puke in it.

But I don’t think we should. The Missouri legislature has never actually adopted any state nickname, perhaps thinking they might have more important things to do. “Show Me State” became unofficially official in 1980 when it appeared on the license plate design. Still, I think there’s some flexibility here.

Now, I’m not suggesting that I’d like to be referred to as a “Puke.” It’s not a very nice word. But if we reframe it a little, we could probably make it work for us, maybe combine our unofficial slogans a little bit. I certainly wouldn’t mind, in concept, living in the state Christmas pukes on, with all its glittery lights and good holiday cheer. And I have to say, my neighbors are bringing it this year. Maybe November was rough on everybody and we all just need a little Christmas. So go ahead, Missouri, show me your Christmas puke.