To paraphrase Buzz Lightyear, "To Epiphany and Beyond!" That's my motto and my rule of thumb when it comes to taking down the Christmas tree.

The Epiphany, January 6, is the feast day celebrating the visit of the Magi to baby Jesus. In Christianity, it's a traditional day to take down the tree. Some people, my brother included, wait until the more ancient traditional date of Candlemas, which is February 2. You'd better have an artificial tree if you're going to stick to that date, otherwise you'll have nothing but tinder. Still other people say it's bad luck to keep your tree up past New Year's. It seems an increasing number of people barely let their Christmas meal cool before packing away their holiday decorations.

So many people put up their trees at Thanksgiving that they're ready to move on by the time Santa stuffs himself down the chimney. We don't put up our decorations until around the third week of December so I like to hold on the holidays a little longer. One year, my parents put off getting a tree for so long that my siblings ages 9, 8 and 4 snuck out of the house on a snowy December 20. Armed with an ax, they trudged through the fields, chopped down a cedar and drug it home.

When our decorations come down over the weekend, I'll miss the festive atmosphere. So will our dog Trooper, who has spent much of his holiday season snoozing under the tree.

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