Today is January 6th, 2022. January 6th marks the Feast of the Epiphany, or the day that the Three Wise Men paid their visit to the Christ Child. January 6th is also known as Little Christmas, and like many across the world, it is the day in our house that the celebration of Christmas ends. After the 6th, the outside lights get turned off, and the tree and decorations get put away for another year. As today is Little Christmas, it will also be the last post on this blog having to do with our Christmas holiday.
For today’s blog, I’d like to tell a story about one of the most familiar symbols of Christmas, The Christmas Tree. According to Wikipedia, “Sources have offered a connection between the first documented Christmas trees in Alsace around 1600 and pre-Christian traditions. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmas time.”
Susie and I are never happier in the beginning of the Christmas season, then when we see our first Christmas Tree tied to the roof of a car, and never sadder than when we see our first undecorated, discarded Christmas Tree on the side of the road.
My story today goes back many years, to the first Christmas in 1968 after my folks and I moved from Jackson Heights to Bayside…..
I grew up in a four room, 4th floor walk-up (that means no elevator) apartment in Jackson Heights, a highly urbanized area of Queens. Jackson Heights is serviced by the very nearby #7 elevated subway line, which was literally just outside our windows. When we moved in early 1968 to a single family house in Bayside Hills, it was like we’d gone from the city to the country. Still a part of Queens county, Bayside is one of the most eastern areas of the county, and was one of the places we used to do Sunday drives to when I was a kid. On those days we said we were going on a drive to “the country,” and now we lived here!!
In Jackson Heights, when you bought a Christmas Tree, you got it from in front of the local A&P, or from a random guy set up on empty lot. In Bayside, when you bought a tree, you went to Kiel Brother’s Nursery and chose one from their section of hand-picked trees. That first Christmas Tree in December of 1968 was a beauty, and a central part of our first Christmas in our new home. It served us well before and during the Christmas season, but as we approached Little Christmas, it was time for it to go!
My Mom had read something about what to do with your tree when you were done with it in your house. Perhaps based on that Scandinavian tradition, she’d read that you should stick it in your backyard, and “decorate” it for the birds that had not gone south for the winter. Things like seed pods, peanut butter, suet, and other things that could give the birds stuck in the north substance when the ground was snow covered. As this was the first year in my folks 20+ years of married life that they had a backyard, I guess she was feeling “countrified” in our new home.
Only problem was that almost the day after we got the tree out of the house, it snowed…a lot! This left the D’Elia Family Christmas Tree buried deep in snow. It stayed buried for the next couple of months, as snow storms kept coming with incredible regularity. We really didn’t see it again till almost Spring thaw. By that time, my Mom had lost her desire to set the tree up, and honestly the need was probably almost non-existent. Rather than “decorate” the tree for the birds, it went out to the curb to wait for the garbage men to pick it up. Picking up trees in late December and early January is I’m sure a pretty common thing for New York City garbage men, but I always wondered what they thought that day in March when they picked up our very dead Christmas Tree!
So, on Little Christmas, as we end our Christmas celebration, Susie and I, and our whole family hope that you can keep the light and joy of the Christmas season in your life, until it’s time for Christmas, 2022! See you again, next year Christmas!