I took our Christmas tree down on January 6th, specifically aiming for Twelfth Night, or the Feast of Epiphany, or the eve of Greek Christmas, because if I didn’t try to recognize Taking Down the Tree as one of the “Days of Christmas” we’d likely just have a fire hazard and bare stick in the front room come Chinese New Year. Neither my husband nor I is generally in any hurry to pack up the holiday each year. We are a bit sappy in that regard. So, we put on the Canadian Brass holiday album, nibble a last ginger cookie or make some hot chocolate, and carefully take down the ornaments.

Does your tree offer renewal once a year to some sort of family heirloom? We have a glass bell, with “1989” inscribed in gold-tone paint, which happened to be the decoration from the top of our wedding cake. My mother made our cake, and as she is not one to ordinarily notice things like each year’s Hallmark ornament — and our wedding was not around Christmas time — her finding this item in some Rockland shop while planning our early September cake was a stroke of luck, or genius, or both. Anyway, it makes for a “warm fuzzy” each December as we hang our bell in the fir tree.

There is a notable preponderance of locomotive engines, owls, other birds, musical instruments, and airplanes — although fewer airplanes now that our son Eric has his childhood ornaments in Vermont. This year, daughter Emily gave us a felted indigo bunting for the tree, marking the year, as this spring I finally saw my first one — actually two — of those brilliant birds on this island. There were some good things about 2020.

There is a horn that toots tucked into the branches, one of the better relics from Paul’s childhood way back in the Paleolithic. He has a box of Christmas tree kitsch from those days, with plastic dime-store cowboys and such from the 1950s, but several items have become “must hang every year” favorites. The noisy horn ornament has seen regular use in the harassment of housecats.

Somebody gave us an “Everest ornament.” This glass orb contains tinsel-y shreds of aluminum, remnants of the process of making bells out of discarded empty oxygen cylinders retrieved at no small effort from that mountain in an attempt to clean up some of the mess. Good idea.

We have several boxes of fragile ornaments that I’d bought at LaVerdiere’s drug store in Rockland in 1985 or ’86. I lived alone in South Thomaston those two winters between college and my stint teaching on Matinicus. People who live alone, and do not have the parking or the cutlery to host much company, will often say, “What’s the sense having a tree? Nobody else will see it.” But I had a tree, absolutely, cut in the neighboring woods and decorated with the start of my own collection. I have never not had a tree, and only twice can remember paying for one.

On our Matinicus tree there is a wooden dory and a little white skiff, each filled with oars and nets and traps and other gear, very detailed; I have no idea who made those. There is a clear glass ball from island artist Donna Rogers with an intricate painting of a local seascape. There are a couple pair of tiny hand-knit mittens, red and green, crafted by Paul’s mother on the world’s smallest knitting needles. Unique among “handcrafted” ornaments is the gray enameled steel star formed quite by accident when Paul the electrician knocked out a “knockout,” meaning the removable round piece creating the hole in a meter box which allows the cable through, and the resulting bent material formed a starburst shape. The kids decided it looked like something that belonged on a Christmas tree, and every year since we have hung that industrial trinket on one of the sturdy bottom branches.

I made our treetop angel back when the kids were little. Old enough to vote now by several years, she appears a rather heathen spirit, holding a spruce cone and a candle in her Romex-wire-armature hands. Over her wooden doll’s-head smile, the hint of a halo is a plastic snowflake ornament suggesting she’s been out in the weather. Her messy hair is braided in a ring like some akvavit-sipping Scandinavian saint, and her dress is a luxurious Victorian velvet number parted to show the humblest unbleached muslin chemise. Make of all that mush and romance what you will.

We are leaving a string of colored lights in the window for a few more days. I might even consider another pan of cookies. No need to rush these things.