You know how you’re supposed to get the Christmas decorations down by Twelfth Night?
Well, by my reckoning, the 6th January was nearly a week ago now, and while some of them are down and packed, and the tree is somewhat bare, the rest are still squatting on the dining table and beginning to draw up rent agreements, while the empty boxes are waiting to be re-packed.
I don’t know why it’s taking us so long this year. I suppose it’s partly this bug (which still won’t let go and bugger off), partly laziness, and partly … well, just doing other, more interesting things. They’ll have to go soon, though, because I want to get back to the genealogy and I’ve decided that this year is the one in which Stuff gets Organised and I’m going to need the table for that.
Meanwhile, I’m still being eyeballed by a lonely reindeer on the windowsill (who has inexplicably turned his back on his friend the rocking horse), and the glass candlesticks on the mantlepiece are still sporting their red bows. There’s a rather sadly empty foil card hanger twisting gently in the breeze by the conservatory door, too.
The cards themselves are down, though. I have them in a pile on the table among the tree baubles, the reindeer bells and the tinsel, waiting for me to reply to any little Christmas notes which have been scribbled inside1.
I have a neat idea for the old cards this year, by the way. I’ve bought a couple of those self-adhesive photo albums2, and I’m going to cut the fronts from the most interesting cards and stick them in the albums to entertain the Grand-twins when they come round. Incidentally, I love the fact that sparkly cards are back in fashion again, don’t you? Even if the sparkle does come off and get everywhere – even on the dogs’ noses. It reminds me of when I was very young and all the cards seemed to be decorated with glitter.
Anyway. I remember my mother telling me, back in those far-off days, that the reason the decorations had to come down by the sixth of January was that if you didn’t do it yourself, the fairies would turn up in the night and do it for you. If I remember correctly, I said something like ‘Oh good! Can I stay up and watch?’, but Mum said no. She said that if we didn’t take them down tidily, the fairies – which were not good fairies, but bad fairies – would tear them down and throw them around and break things, so I gave in.
I’ve since learned that the custom for taking decorations down by Twelfth Night was begun in Victorian times, and one legend (almost certainly started by one of those stern Victorian parents) says that pixies live in holly, which has been a favourite Christmas evergreen for centuries, and they don’t like to live indoors for too long. So, if they’re not put outside (with their holly) fairly promptly, they can turn mischievous and cause trouble.
Well, I suppose it’s possible. I’m not sure I’d notice though, with the mess this house is in at the moment – or maybe they’ve already been! It certainly does look as if … well, as if someone has torn down the decorations in a hurry and kind of left a mess.
The dogs didn’t make a murmur though. You’d think they’d at least bark … !
1 If my friends and family are really lucky, I might get to that before next December.
2 Which are death to the long-term storage of photographs and I really must get round to getting my ‘Year in New Zealand’ photos out of those things and into proper acid-free albums.