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Breaking up Christmas

I like Christmas a lot, probably more than is really appropriate for my age. As a result, I've got the post-holiday blues a little bit today. It's sad to see all the discarded Christmas trees all over the sidewalks. (Although my wife and I have our own tradition of searching all of them for forgotten or overlooked Christmas ornaments. We've salvaged a few good ones this way, and although it may take a while, we one day hope to have an entire tree decorated in nothing but "rescued" ornaments.)

When I was a kid, the big climax was on Christmas morning, of course, and the post-gift-giving letdown began in earnest by Christmas evening. Now that the big day itself is less important to me, I milk everything I can out of the entire season, which is great, but sooner or later I'm left with the post-Epiphany malaise. Bleh.

So it seems like as good a time as any to talk about "Breaking up Christmas," which I'll bet very few of you have ever heard of. It's both an old fiddle tune and a an even older southern Appalachian tradition which is all but dead. It was a travelling, all-night party with music and dancing that would begin after Christmas was over and continue night after night until Epiphany, or "Old Christmas," as the old-timers called it.

Hooray Jake, Hooray John
Breaking up Christmas all night long
Santa Claus come, done and gone
Breaking up Christmas right straight along
Don’t you remember a long time ago
The old folks danced the doesey-doe

The parties were typically held at somebody's house, and two rooms would be cleared of furniture to make room for dancing (in good weather, the chairs, beds, etc. would be dragged out onto the lawn, and that was one way to know where the party was for that night.) The musicians (banjos and mandolins were common, but there was always a fiddle) stood in the doorway between the two rooms so that everyone could hear.

Sadly, I don't remember any of this first-hand. It's all been explained to me by people who are much older than I am, and remember a time and a place where Christmas Day was only the beginning of the celebration. There's a bit more information on the tradition here, but the definitive reference is probably Paul Brown's excellent Blue Ridge Mountain Holiday: The Breaking Up Christmas Story.

Our modern lifestyles would never allow a revival of this tradition in the same way it was practiced back then. We may not work nearly as hard as those old Blue Ridge mountaineers did, but we work hard at pretending to work hard. We're way too "busy" to host and attend Breaking up Christmas parties for two solid weeks following Christmas.

Still, I sometimes wish that some watered-down, contemporary version of the same tradition would at least keep the spirit of the old celebrations alive, to help smooth out the abrupt transition back into normal, non-holiday life.


We started a tradition one year in college way back...we left our tree up until late March (because all of us in the house were too lazy to take it down) and then decided to test whether the old wives tale about flammable trees was valid. So we shoved the entire tree--with balls, tinsel and lights--into the fireplace and up the chimney as far as we could jam it. Then everyone took a bong hit and we lit the tree on fire. Sure enough, it was gone in less than five snap-crackle-and-pop minutes, taking the mantle with it and leaving a large soot mark on the ceiling. Fun fun fun.

Sometimes tradition is memorable when it's done only once.

You are my hero.

Mrs DBK keeps our decorations up until "Ukranian Christmas".

We have a fake tree, so every year I pick it up, after the ornamnets are off but without removing the lights, and carry it into the basement. Then we put this Christmas Tree bag over it to keep the dust off. The next year, I carry it back upstairs.

I love our fake tree. We've had it for about ten years. We're going to get a new one this year. Soon, because the prices are low right now. With the lights already on it.

Thank god, another Ukrainian!


But what about the 'after Christmas' after Christmas blues? Let's just shove trees up a chimney all year long and hit the bong all year long. :)

Any "after Xmas" blues were solved when we set the Easter bunny on fire!

Mrs DBK is half Ukranian and part Dutch and other things. I am not even a little bit Ukranian. Inre Christmas, I leave everything up to her and do what I am told.

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