The ups and downs of Christmas decorations


January 15, 1994|By ROB KASPER

David Hopkins kept his Christmas tree up for 13 months. He meant to remove the artificial tree from its perch in his Rossville club basement last January. But then he and his girlfriend, Denise Debes, got busy rearranging furniture in their home, and they never got around to taking the tree down.

"And once it got to May and June . . . we figured we were halfway to Christmas, so we just left it up," Hopkins said.

Evelyna Valentine had her tree out the door Dec. 27. She always takes her tree down a few days before New Year's Day because she believes nothing "old," including Christmas decorations, should carry over into the new year. That is what her mother and grandmother taught her when she was growing up in Beaufort, N.C., she said. And it is a practice she carried with her when her family moved to Baltimore. She continued taking down the tree early as her family moved from homes in Sparrow's Point to Northwood, and eventually to Towson.

"You begin the New Year with a new attitude and a clean house," Valentine said.

In Catonsville, Mary Helen Sprecher believes in keeping the evergreen up until so many needles fall "you can't walk through the living room in your bare feet."

These were some of the rationales used in determining when to take down holiday decorations. The issue was posed last week in this space and readers were invited to call in their comments.

Judging by the response -- about 200 callers -- people have well-developed and sometimes humorous opinions on when to call an end to the holidays.

Overall, there seemed to be three camps. I call them the Twelfth Nighters, the believers in the Big Day theory, and the When the Spirit Moves You crowd.

The largest contingent was the Twelfth Nighters, folks like Helene Kruse of Essex who use Jan. 6, the date that many Christian religions mark as the Epiphany, or the arrival of the three kings, as the guideline for taking the decorations down.

In this camp was Emily Cossis, who said in her Greek Orthodox tradition, Jan. 6 is a feast day. And so, she said, the holiday decorations don't come down until the feast has been properly celebrated.

The Rev. Fred Hanna, an Episcopalian priest, said the tradition in England is not only to remove the greens but to burn them on the evening of Jan. 5, in a ceremony asking for a fruitful year. He said a few years ago he presided over the burning of greens at All Saints Episcopal Church in Reisterstown. But he was quick to add that this Old World tradition required the cooperation of a New World fire department.

Next came the believers in the Big Day theory. These people use the birthday of a family member, or another day of note, to motivate them to take the decorations down.

Ellen Garrity of Guilford, for instance, takes the tree down Jan. 7, the birthday of her mother, Natalie. An unidentified caller said Jan. 15 was the caller's birthday, the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the day the household's decorations came down.

B. J. Scahen-Cazer of West Baltimore pleaded guilty to leaving her tree up until Valentine's Day. This year, she said, she might even keep the evergreen up until March 22, her daughter's birthday.

For Flo Collemer of Middle River, the Big Day was the day of the Rose Bowl football game, Jan. 1. The decorations came down, she said, as her family watched the game on television.

Mary Helen Sprecher, who gave us the barefoot-in-the-living room standard of when to take the tree down, also had a Big Day theory. "It is time to take the tree down when you start receiving Valentine Day's candy," she said.

Her husband, Steve, however, had a different Big Day in mind. You take the tree down, he said, "when the Super Bowl is over." The couple are newlyweds, Mary Helen said, and are in the process of working this minor disagreement out.

Finally, there was the contingent that follows the When the Spirit Moves You dictum.

Rosemary Owings of Reisterstown, for instance, said she takes her decorations down "when I am tired of looking at them."

Some folks in this camp spoke of feeling melancholy at the thought of removing holiday lights.

"It makes me smile when I see my lights on," said an unidentified caller. "I don't know when I'm going to take it [the tree] down yet and it's not due to laziness, it's just the beauty of it."

Ruth Kalinowski, who said she had a Christmas tree in every room of her family's Jessup home, explained she lets go of the holiday reluctantly.

"If it weren't for the idea of feeling embarrassed by neighbors, I'd leave my decorations up endlessly because I absolutely adore Christmas," she said. "And I just hate having to put the things away."

As for David Hopkins, the fellow who kept his tree up 13 months -- he took the tree down last Sunday; when he did, he said he found two presents under it. He packed the presents away.

He concedes he might have been a little slow getting the tree down. But with the newly found presents, he figures he has a jump on next year's Christmas shopping.

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