Strands of pretty ribbon and rolls of colorful paper are wadded up and headed for the curb. That perfect Christmas tree we decorated so carefully is shedding needles and threatening to topple over. Dreadful sweaters we wear once a year are being retired to a dark end of the closet where hopefully they'll be lost. Songs about the Baby Jesus and Santa Claus that we enjoyed in November are now being silenced.
It's the Day After Christmas, and all through the house all the creatures are gloomy, yes, even the mouse.
That special day has come and gone. We planned, saved and decorated for months. Now it's over and we're left with emptiness.
It's this way every year. We celebrate a wonderful season that is a crescendo to Christmas morning when children rush the living room to see what Santa has brought them.
And then it's over.
Why does it have to be this way? Why do we have beautiful poetry to read on the night before Christmas but no words to describe the morning after?
The Scriptures that are read at this time dwell on an ordinary night in Bethlehem where an unusual star led people to a simple manger.
The Bible tells us little about what Mary and Joseph did the next day once the Magi went home and the shepherds returned to the hills.
A recent phenomenon is an elf that comes to visit weeks before Christmas. He is on loan from the North Pole, and every night, while we're sleeping, he magically reports whether we've been naughty or nice. By morning he's back in our house, picking a new perch every day.
We named our elf O'Hara. This was his second year with us. He stuck around until Christmas Eve, catching a ride home when Santa dropped off our gifts. We miss him, but like the garland and the glowing lights, O'Hara only stays a little while.
It was all worth it
Today we're suffering a holiday hangover that has nothing to do with booze. Our mind is weary and our soul is wondering if it was worth the investment.
But it is worth it. For one shining moment we marked a day that should be a beginning more than an end.
It is a time when ageless carols remind us why we celebrate, overshadowing the melancholy of secular songs that are so sad they make us want to slit our wrists.
So as we pack up the ornaments and exchange those tacky ties, we should remember the giving spirit we feel when we hear the tinkling of the Salvation Army bell and the swelling inside when we hear a choir sing about a holy night.
If we can do that, we can truly have a wonderful life.
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent for the Ledger-Enquirer. Reach him at email@example.com.