Hooray Jake, hooray John
Breaks Christmas up all night long
Santa has come, finished and gone
To break up Christmas right away.
Last week, the 5th, to be exact, I stiffened my spine, looking at the bare branches of the still wonderfully fragrant balsam fir Christmas tree – OK, also known as, to avoid offending my Jewish ancestors, a Chanukah bush – and asked Google to play folk magician John McCutcheon’s version of the classic season finale, a song called “Breakin ‘Up Christmas”. (Somewhere around the estate we still have John’s version on a vinyl LP, but I’m not quite sure where, so it was easier just to request that my smart speaker do the job.)
The venerable tune, according to folklorist Dave Tabler, who wrote on the Appalachian History.net website, probably comes from a North Carolina fiddler and singer named William Preston “Pet” McKinney, who was born in 1846, served in the Civil War and spent it most of his long life – McKinney died in 1926 at a mature age of 79 – in the then isolated foothills of south-central Virginia in the area around the universe’s traditional banjo picker capital, Galax.
“During rainy periods, the roads of this region, which were mostly made of red clay without gravel, were historically so muddy that wagon wheels would sink in up to their axles,” Tabler wrote. “This made traveling in difficult parts of the year either difficult or impossible.”
Christmas in that area was often the rainy season, so people did not come out much and instead often went from local house to local house to gather and, during the twelve days of the holiday season, sing, play, dance and party. McKinney’s song was. We are told the highlight of the nightly festivities.
But all good things must have an end, and in keeping with tradition, we are only allowed 12 sanctioned Christmas days and nights. After that period ends at 12. Night, it’s time to put the decorations away and get down to the more sober reflection period known as, well, winter.
It turns out, however, that there is no universal agreement on the exact date celebrated in another song by 12 drummers. In the Anglican tradition of the Church of England, the 12-day period begins on December 25 and ends on January 5. In contrast, Catholics begin to count on the day after Christmas and therefore end up stopping the festivities on the 6th, which is also celebrated as the day the three wise men arrived in Bethlehem with gifts for the baby in the manger.
Given the naturalist’s Jewish traditions, both dates would be fine as the marker indicating the removal of decorations, and in truth I probably would not protest if we waited, as is the case in other traditions, until the local fire department arrived to order the removal of needleless and highly flammable no-longer-evergreens. But my wife comes from Anglican or at least English, and I had time on the 5th, so while John McCutcheon was playing on the home speaker, I carefully removed the last ornament, a delicate glass top that I put on my gloves and eyeglasses, tilted the tree towards the door and went outside. In the cold, I untied the spruce from the tree and then dragged it around the house to its winter quarters using a large witch hazel, where it would be pulled upright, decorated with garlands of popcorn and cranberries that the tree had carried indoors, and serve as a cold weather and shelter for our songbirds and squirrels. We get many pleasant miles out of a Christmas tree.
To be sure, the cleansing of the tree was basically the only decoration that was removed and stored by Three Kings Day, which was certainly a better way to celebrate the 6th than to regret the arrival of More-than-Three Not So Wise Men … and women in the nation’s capital last year, and we can only hope that our delay does not bring misfortune and misfortune to the heights. If tradition is any indicative, we’ll probably have finished working and everything back in the attic over the weekend, after which we will sing one last chorus of “Breakin ‘Up Christmas” and revel in memories until we start over next Thanksgiving.
And if we’re still a little late in completing the tasks, blame the Weather Channel and the creepy orange box that appeared on the afternoon of the 6th with the words WINTER STORM WARNING. When I left home that morning to visit my dermatologist and have another round of precancerous skin lesions removed, the pay for too much sun exposure in my lost youth, I planned a leisurely afternoon stroll through a newly purchased getaway to monitor the beaver’s activity and hunt for the first signs of winter stone flies. These hardy insects often emerge from their watercourse-bound youth at the first sign of the warmth of the season, and with temperatures well into their 50s several days after New Year, I figured I could just spot the first adults of the insect order Plecoptera.
But it had gotten a little too cold when I was able to go hunting for the creature, and the WC warning suggested that I would best return home faster than I had planned, to haul firewood and get the stove ready for it , which now looked. as an actual storm that several days later would be accompanied by a true taste of Deep Freeze. I worked quickly into the twilight, then the darkness, and when the evolving storm had swallowed the crescent, I was ready for what would meet me during the night and dawn.
Too bad the first taste of real winter had not come before Christmas instead of waiting until after the break, but I had the shovels at hand, the pacemaker called to get the job done, and my cross-country skier and ski partner, aka. , my son Noah, ready to benefit from the blessing of nature. The birds quickly found the tree and its supply of food and shelter. I put another tree trunk on the fire, smiled and went out into the snow.