Barefoot Memories of a Hillbilly

A Time of One Voice

After Sunday dinner we began the necessary task of removing the ornaments and icicles from the Christmas tree. Some of the older kids had gotten an artificial tree a couple years ago for Mom and Pap so they wouldn’t have to head out in winter’s miserable weather in search of the most perfect of the imperfect trees that seem to take root in the most haphazard places. The fake tree has a perfect shape, but lacks the piney scent I associate with a real old time Christmas. Just as when the ornaments were going up, each object is fingered with words of ‘remember when’ and ‘I remember this.’ School starts back tomorrow, and the removal of the tree is sort of a signal that it’s time to start fitting life back in the boxes it came in. Some cultures think you should remove your tree before midnight of New Years Eve, that keeping it up longer invites bad luck. Others say it’s brings good luck to leave it up until after New Year’s Day.

Pap says when he was a kid the old timers left their decorations up until after “Old Christmas” or “Women’s Christmas” which is January 6. Old Christmas was once recognized by the old churches as being the day the wise men reached the Baby Jesus (after spotting the star in the sky that announced the birth,) and following it to find the baby. These days it’s call Epiphany. The old Christmas song refers to this time as the 12-days of Christmas. If the star appeared in the sky at Jesus’ birth, and it took 12-days to journey to him, Epiphany or in our time, January 6, is the day they presented their gifts to the baby. So the old timers put their decorations up like the star to announce their acknowledgement of Christ’s birth, and took down the decoration after the gifts were given on Epiphany. Pap can’t remember why they called it Women’s Christmas, but he also says some called it Little Christmas. Anyway, the decorations back then stayed up till after Old Christmas.

Apparently Pap’s family had neighbors and friends who were only a generation or two from their mother country, and many of the old ways were still practiced back in 1910’s to 20’s. Something he never failed to mention on Epiphany eve was that the animals would speak in one language at midnight, as they had at Jesus’ birth, and should any of the faithful be with them, will be able to understand their words. He laughingly always admitted he couldn’t stay awake long enough as a child to find out for himself. Many of the old churches hold watchnight services on New Year’s Eve to show their belief and observance of the miracles of Christmas.

Each trinket, light, bauble, and branch was removed, dusted and packed away until the next year. Just as we’re in the process of fitting the decorations back in their boxes, it’s part of the process of fitting our life’s back in their appropriate containers to push ahead into this new year. I don’t suppose I’ll get an opportunity this week to hear the animals speak with one voice, in fact, it’s doubtful I’ll hear more than two humans speak of one opinion thru the week. As the large boxes are slid away from sight, it’s with a reluctance we release our grip on the magic of the season.

I just wear shoes now, but sometimes I have barefoot memories.

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