Discarded American Christmas trees line sidewalks mere days after the festive occasion. A sadness swells in my heart when I see them, abandoned to a mulching fate.
Christmas Day in Ireland marks the beginning of festivities, not the end. I miss post-Christmas Irish get-togethers, throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Bottles of whiskey, boxes of chocolates, or tins of cookies are toted around to each port of call, because you can’t go anywhere “with one arm as long as the other.”
I always laugh at Irish tins of cookies called ‘USA biscuits.’ Not one cookie in this lovely assortment resembles any cookie variety in the good old USA. I always remember hoping our Christmas visitors might bring Milk Tray chocolates in their distinctive purple box, fearing the arrival of an inevitable box of Black Magic. I often wonder how many homes each box of Black Magic gets passed on to in Ireland, before someone finally says “Thank God for dark chocolate.”
Unscheduled afternoon cups of tea with mince pies and chocolate biscuits shared between neighbors, friends and relatives, foster connection and memories. Chats in pubs weave stories and emotions together, creating the legacy of Christmases long gone.
The last time I spent Christmas in Ireland was nineteen years ago, when my husband and I married on January 2nd. Christmas in America is wonderful, but when I see the first abandoned tree a few days after Christmas I get a little nostalgic, longing for another Irish Christmas. Some year when my kids are a little older, I will trade our annual summer pilgrimage for a winter retreat, and savor the joys of an Irish Christmas once again, when festive days seem to dawdle by.
And so each year, my Christmas tree stands sentinel in the corner until January 7th. No matter how long I spend living in America, I cannot throw our tree out the week after Christmas. I grow superstitious when my husband suggests taking our decorations down early.
My mother always says it is bad luck for the coming year, to remove holly or the crib, before Christmas is officially over. And so, my poor wise men wait patiently on a separate shelf before being granted admittance to the crib on January 6th.
When I am old and gray, insisting my children do not touch my decorations until January 7th, they will probably just roll their eyes to heaven.
Their spouses will probably ask:
“What’s up with your crazy mother?”
They will probably reply:
“She’s just a mad, old, Irish woman – you’ll never understand.”
They probably will be right. I’ll be a crazy, old, Irish American grandma, filled with memories of lingering Irish Christmases.
Athbhlian Faoi Mhaise Duit!
(Happy New Year)
Irish American Mom