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In other years, the threat of bad luck if you fail to take your Christmas decorations down by Twelfth Night might have meant something. In 2021, the idea that things could get any worse seems blackly comic.
And so it is that for some people, baubles, lights, and trees are staying in place this year.
In cities, towns and villages across the country, a few doggedly cheerful celebrants of the season have decided to dispense with the practice of the last two centuries and embrace an older, medieval tradition – which dictates that rather than ending in early January, Christmas celebrations should last until the next Christian holy day, Candlemas (2 February). Call it cheer for tiers.
The idea was raised on Tuesday by Michael Carter, senior properties historian at English Heritage, in his article for Catholic news magazine the Tablet announcing the organisation’s endorsement of the extension.
“There’s precious little joy in January at the best of times,” Carter argued. “This year the accelerating spread of Covid … only compounds the misery.”
You wouldn’t want to miss the Candlemas deadline, though – or, as 17th century clergyman and poet Robert Herrick warned, you might be visited by a goblin. In other words, if you keep your tinsel up and see Michael Gove on TV, you only have yourself to blame.
While Carter’s intervention earned him a spot on Radio 4’s Today programme, it turns out that plenty of others have had the same idea, with dozens of social media users suggesting they had similar plans.
Becci Wright, a unit manager in film and TV, told the Guardian that in her village of Osmotherley, North Yorkshire, Christmas lights went up early “in direct response to Covid-19”.
“There was an idea of lighting up the end of a very dark year for many,” she said. After Christmas, a coffee shop owner on the local Facebook page floated the idea of keeping lights up throughout January, and about 20 residents plan to do so.
“Lighting our way through the long, dark winter months will hopefully create a sense of optimism,” said Wright, who is participating herself. “The lights serve as a reminder that we are here for each other.”
Brigid Joughin, a GP in Newcastle, said she had insisted the tree stay up for the sake of her husband. “I have the luxury of being able to get out of the house for work but he’s at home all day so it’s nice to keep the house as cheerful as possible,” she said.
In a “dark and miserable winter with nothing in our lives to look forward to”, she added, an extension to the festivities seems reasonable. “There’s already lots of Christmas trees in the back lane and I just thought, ‘Why is everybody rushing to do this now? Life isn’t normal, so why pretend it is?”
Councils may not entirely agree, however, with many scheduling tree collection services for early to mid-January, and already bare-bones teams are likely to be unimpressed by the prospect of trees piling up on pavements in four weeks’ time.
Churches, though, have long been open-minded on the question, a Church of England spokesman said, noting that many routinely kept decorations until Candlemas. Among others, Chester, Leicester, Salisbury and Durham cathedrals are all maintaining some Christmas cheer through the rest of the month.
So is the television presenter Amanda Holden, who claimed on Tuesday to be imitating the supposed approach taken by the Queen, as was the BBC Breakfast presenter Louise Minchin, who said her tree would be staying for “quite some time”.
Still, in normal circumstances, most of us would be surprised to see a Christmas tree in place after this week. Susannah Clark, a retired 68-year-old nurse from Milton Keynes, scoffs at such convention – and has had hers up since December 2019.
Her tree is artificial, negating the risk of needle shedding, but not of surprised relatives on Zoom calls. Once it had stayed to midsummer, Clark said, there didn’t seem much point in removing it. “What’s the point? It’s just up early!”
Clark, who came out of retirement to help triage possible coronavirus cases by phone earlier in the pandemic, expects to leave her tree in place this year, too. “We hadn’t rationalised it as being to do with Covid, but we’re both at home, and it cheers the place up – anything that boosts your morale a bit.”
Adam Adshead, a 56-year-old who lives in Billericay, has good reason to seek that kind of solace: he lost his sister in June, and his father, to coronavirus, two days before Christmas. And so he kept the lights on.
“This year, more than ever, we need cheering up, and leaving the lights on is a sign of hope for better things to come,” he said. “Maybe there are essential workers going past at night, and just maybe the sight of lights will bring a little joy to them.”
Above all, though, Adshead has been thinking of his loved ones – and like most people this Christmas, his cheer has a tinge of defiance. “The lights are for them,” he said. “To remember them, to honour them and to say that despite everything, life does go on.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Light brigade: the Christmas holdouts keeping their decorations up | UK news