Friday, December 28, 2007

And On The Fifth Day Of Christmas ...

from Jacqueline

Although I had traveled to the USA as a visitor on many occasions, it wasn’t until December 1990 that I came here for a more ambitious sojourn – yes, the six month “sabbatical” that went on for longer than I originally intended, and here I am now with a pile of papers awaiting attention on my desk marked “Application for Naturalization.” Well, there goes the Dame-hood!

But that isn’t what I had in mind this morning, as I reflected upon the waning festive season. The thing that most surprised me about the holidays here in America, next to the fact that people seemed to take most of their gifts back to the stores within a couple of days of December 25th to get a refund or to change the "stuff," was that as soon as the day was done, people began taking down their Christmas trees and decorations. Don’t they know this is bad luck, thought I? Where I come from the tree remained in place until January 6th, and then it came down. Admittedly, by that time it was looking pretty tired. You couldn’t walk across the room without getting a pine needle in your foot and the lights had either fused or had managed to take out every appliance in the house. Granted, when I was growing up the light problem was more to do with the fact that my dad overloaded the sockets, but you get my point. However, our tree was always the tree that went on giving, because as my Mum put it, “Now the birds have their Christmas.’ The tree, complete with the odd bits of tinsel that wouldn’t let go, would then be set up in the garden where we “decorated” it with bits of bread and turkey fat, threading them with twine and then dangling them from the branches where those baubles had been hanging just the day before. My brother and I would rush in and peer out of the kitchen window to watch the birds swoop down for their feast.

I don’t know if there’s a moral to that story, as they say. Just as when we read a book, we take from any story what we will, remembering the birds swooping to our leftovers makes me think about the swift passage of our season of giving, and that there’s still time to make (tax-deductible) gifts to the organizations that reflect the things I care about most. I know I’m getting boring about this, but hey – my next task this morning involves killing someone (in a writerly sense, you understand), so I know no fear. Here’s where I’ll be sending a few pieces of fat before 2008 comes in with its diaper flapping in the wind:

The Natural Resources Defense Council. Can’t stop thinking about drowning polar bears.

Medecins San Frontieres: Doctors without borders – they go where no man wants to go, and they get to work when they get there.

American Civil Liberties Union: It says something about free speech in that pile of papes on my desk, hence the donation.

The others on my list are more local organizations connected with literacy, the humane society, the homeless ... kind of reminds me of those words:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve a lot of form-filling to get on with.

Happy New Year to you all!


  1. You are a remarkable woman!

    When I was a child back in PA, WVa, and Ohio, we, too, kept the trees up till the 2nd week in Jan, AND set them out with bread and pine cones filled with suet and seeds...and the odd bit of tinsel.

    My gifts this year will go to literacy programs.

    Keep the faith! I'll see you on Feb. 23, if not before.

    Happy New Year!

    Tom, T.O.

  2. from Jacqueline

    Suet, seeds and Liter-a-cee!

    I knew there was a ditty there somewhere.

    Thanks for your comment, Tom - and look forward to seeing you on Feb 23rd!

  3. Such a lovely post, thanks.

    And I like the idea of trees staying up until the 6th (Epiphany, isn't it?) I have a couple of friends of English origin who follow that tradition....

  4. Thanks, Rae - I think it's a lovely tradition, to keep the tree into the New Year. It always makes the holidays seem so rushed when the trees go out to the chipper on Boxing Day (to those of us who celebrate the day after Christmas!)

  5. I've never heard about the traditional Jan 6 tree removal date. Usually, I take mine down whenever I sense an imminent fire hazard. Let's see how close to the 6th I get. Clue us in, Our J and Tom T.O. What's happening on Feb. 23rd?

  6. Jacqueline, you woulda made a TERRIFIC dame!

    In the early years of my marriage one of the big areas of contention was when to take the tree down. I was an advocate of the January 6th target date; Lynn wanted it down by New Year's Day. Now if just sort of comes down a little after the first, usually when I'm not home.

  7. I think "fire hazard risk" is as good a time to remove a tree as any. On February 23rd I'll be at Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks, CA - check out my website (click on "Appearances") to see the whole book tour laid out for your viewing pleasure. By the middle of March I will be in a "Where am I? What day is this?" world of my own!

    And I'll be seeing Our Jim in Virginia at the end of March - yes, a real, live sighting of Jim Born!

  8. Hey, thanks, JD - I rather fancied being a Dame, to tell you the truth, and being able to hang out with the likes of Helen and Judi, to say nothing of Phyllis and Ruth, at the Great Dames Club (there must be one!).

    And I guess any time after the 1st is fine for the de-treeing, but as you know now, I much prefer the 6th!