Christmas Lights Down, Cardigan On, Cheese Dips on Deck

Taking the Christmas lights down is one of the primary reasons, I think, for January Grimness. I’ve tried leaving them up way after Christmas, but Christmas lights too long after Christmas are a depressing reminder that there’s no reason for them to be up, and that all of life is a sad sham. And I’ve tried buying other kinds of string-lights intended for non-Christmas use, such as pretty little lantern shapes, but pretty little lantern shapes don’t give me the Christmas light feeling. It is just not time to have the Christmas lights up right now, and I am just going to have to learn how to carry on anyway.

I am feeling especially grim because I’ve been so CHILLY. I am not used to being so chilly. But I’m not ONLY chilly, so I can’t just put on a sweater or I’d be yanking it off again half an hour later and then pulling it on fifteen minutes after that, and you know how staticky that makes your hair. My mom says the same thing happened to her at Around This Age: her temperature-regulator went on the fritz and never really worked again. So I need things that are easy to put on and take off as needed.

The happy thing about being CHILLY for a change is that I LIKE to ADD layers! It is delightful! Until recently my problem has been that I run warm, but I do not like to show a lot of skin, so I am more accustomed to the misery that is (1) wanting to remove layers and (2) absolutely not wanting to remove layers. I hate my summer clothes, which are insufficiently skimpy for coolness yet still too skimpy for emotional comfort.

Anyway, I have been shopping left and right. Right now I am wearing a snuggy sherpa cardigan that is like wearing a teddy-bear pelt. And I bought a micro-fleece cardigan that has thumb-holes in the sleeves—like built-in fingerless gloves. I would like to link to these things because I highly, highly recommend both of them, but unfortunately I bought them on clearance at Old Navy and now they are gone.

I also bought a circle scarf because it was on a pre-Christmas sale for $2, but it makes Paul nervous because he thinks I will somehow accidentally get it caught on something and be strangled, so I have not been wearing it. Besides, scarves don’t seem quite right: they are warm as long as they stay snug, but they gradually loosen until they are brushing annoyingly against my chilly neck. And I feel as if scarves LOOK as if I’m trying to conceal my middle-aged neck, but that they actually highlight it. So.

Listen, do you have any ideas for filling the sad joyless void left by the removal of the Christmas lights? Right now I am trying cheese dips, but it’s not enough.

69 thoughts on “Christmas Lights Down, Cardigan On, Cheese Dips on Deck

  1. Jd

    My problem with taking down Christmas is that it is work. Didn’t I do enough already? I bought and wrapped and mailed endless gifts, updated addresses and sent out cards, cooked and baked then hung out with kids off school (with cabin fever) and now am back to work. I am tired and now I have to dismantle it all.

    I knew someone who had an entry way with super high ceilings and a secret door. The door was extra tall and revealed a walk in closet meant for a full size (fake) Christmas tree. They just wheeled it in and wheeled it out and NEVER took down ornaments. Never wrestled the tree into attic or cleaned up needles. I swear if I ever build a house I will include a Christmas tree closet.

      1. Mary

        My husband’s grandmother had a Christmas Tree Room. He says it was there for his entire life. I met her before she passed away and did get to experience the glory of the Christmas room. Several trees fully decorated as well as Nativity scenes and other decorations year round!

  2. ccr in MA

    I don’t know if it would help you, but in January I find visiting a greenhouse really lifts my mood. Not for long enough, unfortunately, but spending an hour in warm, humid air looking at beautiful blooming flowers and plants is energizing to me for a while, anyway. There’s one at a local college that is open to the public, so you might see if there are any around you. Looking at the photos afterward helps a little, too, if not as much as the actual visit.

    1. Shawna

      Oh yes! I used to eat my lunch in the greenhouse in the winter when I was an undergrad! I’d totally forgotten!

  3. Laura

    Ooof, I hear you. I’m looking at my suitcase that needs to be unpacked, new toys that need to be put away, and suddenly stale-looking Christmas decorations. Ick.

  4. Suzanne

    Well, if there were another Swistle out there I would say read her blog, because you always brighten my day. Favorite bits: “Christmas lights too long after Christmas are a depressing reminder that there’s no reason for them to be up, and that all of life is a sad sham. “
    “ you know how staticky that makes your hair“

    “insufficiently skimpy for coolness yet still too skimpy for emotional comfort”

    “Teddy bear pelt”

    Paul’s worry about strangling and your subsequent avoidance of the scarf.

    We have yet to take down the Christmas decorations because I can’t bear to do it myself. So I am in that uncomfortable place between the desire to squeeze every last drop of enjoyment out of the Christmassyness and the desire to just move on already.

  5. Phancymama

    I am a large fan of fleece zip up vests with long sleeve shirts underneath, and then I can add a cardigan or shawl over the top. And I love the idea of scarves, but then somehow I always manage to get them tangled up in my hair and it’s just too much all up in my face/neck area and I feel claustrophobic. Which is problematic as my MIL always gives me scarves.

    I am dreading taking the Christmas lights down. It was my first year actually getting them on the roof of the house and I loved it and it gave me such joy in early December, and then the last couple weeks flew by and I’m sort of a mix of sad and bewildered and dismal.

    I do find filling my house with bakery and yummy scents (I do the melted wax variety because I cannot be trusted with open flame) and that makes me feel somewhat comforted. (I save some of my favorite peppermint and coffee scents and do not use in December so that is a treat.). Also, fancy coffee creamer.

    1. Celeste

      Agree with the zip up vest! I think that just keeping the core warm goes a long way. Also, I love wool socks every day in the winter. If I can keep my toes from getting cold, it helps keep a chill away.

    2. RA

      I agree on vests! At first I didn’t “get” them, but now I see that they warm up your core without restricting your arms/shoulders. I have a cheap fleece-lined puffer one from Old Navy, and I love it. It would be weird to wear indoors, but there are lots of lower profile ones.

  6. Megan

    Many of the lights are still up in our neighborhood and when I drive home at night I find it HORRIBLY depressing. It’s also sad when they’re gone, but not in a smack you in the face sort of way. These first weeks of January are just sort of power-through-it weeks for me, but I do enjoy doing things like setting up my planner for the year and making silly resolutions that are easier to check off then my real resolutions. Things like “read at least one book from your bookshelf per month (as opposed to a new book or one from the library.) I am also making a list of shows I want to finish watching so that when I finish a series I feel INCREDIBLY accomplished. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was perfect for this, because it was only 8 episodes but it was also delightful.

  7. Jamie

    If you were to knit a cowl then you could have the warm and cozy pleasures of nice wool in your lap while you knit it and then nice wool around your neck afterward. Cowls can’t come un-snugged like scarves can. Knitting something just for me is one of my favorite January indulgences, and cowls are an easy beginner-sized project.

    1. Rah

      Agree! If my shoulders and upper trunk/arms are warm, the rest of my body seems to follow suit. So I love cowls. Some cowls are, however, loose enough to get caught in the office paper shredder if you’re bent over it. (Ask me how I know. Thankfully, they are also loose enough to shrug out of as you stand over the shredder. )

      1. Jamie

        I have a strong preference for neck-sized cowls, so much so that I wasn’t even thinking about all the giant ones that exist and their potential for precipitating Isadora Duncan-esque doom. This pattern is a favorite of mine because it is quick, easy but not boring, suitable for gifting, and 100% compatible with shredding duty:

        I read an article about an Iditarod competitor who said that keeping your neck warm is the key to staying warm in the winter. He said it matters because so much of your body’s blood supply is passing through your neck at any given moment, traveling to or from the brain.

  8. Chrissy

    I was just telling someone yesterday I am not ready to take the decorations down. My Christmas living room is so pretty and cozy and my normal living room is not. Maybe if I become a person who decorates BIG for each holiday, that would help? Except I’m never going to do that.

  9. Liz Miller

    Tank top under long sleeve button down shirt under a cardigan (or suit jacket). Flannel-lined jeans

    Alternatively, tank top AND leggings with a pair of nice boots under a cotton dress (preferably with pockets), and a cardigan or jacket.

    I’m going to second the cowl idea. There are some nice ones at Target, or there were. Also at Dick’s Sporting Goods.


    I leave Christmas up until MLK Jr Day.

  10. Chris

    We take down all the Christmas decor, except my Snoopy tree around Jan. 1. It gives me such joy to look at and it is the first to go up and usually the last thing to come down about a week or two later. I would probably leave it up even longer but my husband is always itchy to get everything put away ASAP.

  11. LeighTX

    I have a friend who decorates for winter after Christmas–all white lights and silver decorations. She takes down the tree and the green-and-red holiday things but puts up things like fancy white candles and greenery and silver snowflakes. It extends the joy just a little bit and postpones that holiday letdown feeling when your house is back to (boring) normal.

    1. Aubergine

      This is a great idea! I’ve done a similar thing with music — I love Christmas music, but it doesn’t feel right listening after Christmas, so I’ve made myself a Winter Playlist with non-Christmas-specific wintery songs.

  12. Judith Rosa

    I don’t put up decorations anymore (I do have festive china, glasses, tablecloth, etc) so I don’t have to deal with much. And have Christmas plants (cactus, etc) to make these dreary days a little bit better. My Christmas cacti are bipolar ( like me) and they are having a manic phase this year. Thank goodness for small mercies. I highly recommend flowers for lifting up your mood.

    As for the body temperature thing, I lost all shame at around 60, so summers are no problem for me. LOL Cold weather, on the other hand, is hell. I get all my exercise from putting on and taking off my clothes.

  13. Celeste

    I love January for the quiet peace and possibility. But may I suggest some potted amaryllis bulbs? They are a great thing to watch grow in January. They’re so easy, and watering is rewarded with fast growth. Lowes might still have some; I usually get them at a local chain called Meijer, already in a plastic pot with peat, ready to go.

    Another thing that helps is fragrance. This is my favorite time of year to enjoy citrus, and I think it’s mainly for the smell! It adds a lot to a cup of tea or a chicken dish. I think I’m making sopa de lima, chicken soup with limes, next week for this reason.

  14. BKB

    I am so ready to take down decorations. I’m also really grumpy about the insane amount of presents other people gave my children. Don’t they know that I spent the last month not getting any sleep because of Christmas, and now I have a mess of new toys in my house that I can’t put away until I reorganize the whole house. It’s just too much work.

    For my chilly days when I’m staying home, I really like to wear a really big fluffy bathrobe and slippers. It’s cozy and comfortable, and easy to slip on or off, and not cute at all–but I’m ok with that.

  15. Ernie

    Love the teddy bear pelt! Our Christmas decor got up so late and so scaled back because of the kitchen renovation that I am not ready to take it down. I am excited about my plans to arrange photos in big poster frames to hang in the basement. When I emptied the study closet to have the floors redone, I was forced to reorganize it. I decided to hang loads of old portraits of the kids and other favorite pictures that I enlarged but never did anything with. I expect this project will boost my spirits!

  16. StephLove

    Our lights are not only still up, but the timer has gone awry so they’re turned on all morning, turning themselves off around lunch time, and I’m too lazy to do anything about it. I’m going to remove the candy cane lights soon, but sometimes we leave the white lights up all winter. This habit took hold one year when the porch light was burned out and we were too lazy to do anything about it. Are you sensing a pattern?

    1. Tracy

      This is wonderfully hilarious!

      We still have our outdoor lights up because it’s too freezing cold to worry about taking them down. We have still been lighting them, but only for a few more days. Our (artificial) tree is still standing but I removed the ornaments yesterday. And I put away all the other random décor.

      But yeah… January… meh.

  17. C C Donna

    After Christmas, I get flowering plants and place them around the house. I often go to a store like Christmas Tree Shop and get inexpensive, pretty pots for them. I especially enjoy primroses. They can be found at local grocery stores and sometimes at places like Home Depot. (they are not available for long so start looking now) They are only several dollars each and come in a multitude of colors so it takes me a good long time to figure out which ones I want. I can put 6 of them along me window sill above my sink. They bloom for months and if you don’t water them almost every day and find them drooped, just water them and they will flourish, again.

    In the early spring, I plant them in my garden in a shady moist area and they come up year after year. They are the first to bloom in the garden. My Nana had them throughout her rock garden.

    So, I strongly recommend flowering plants. My local nursery has all plants on sale for 33% off right now so perhaps your areas have sales, too. Supermarkets often have a great selection of flowering plants, too, at an affordable price.

  18. SheLikesToTravel

    If you are religious, the 12th day of Christmas is January 6… so my stuff never comes down before that date. (It helps me with justifying getting another week or two out of my tree!) I love the idea of going to a greenhouse. I was thinking many botanical gardens have a great indoor garden — maybe a quick visit and a cup of cocoa in the gift shop would help?

    1. Elsk

      Exactly! And I seem to remember a Swistle blog post discussing the Twelve Days of Christmas and how this helps extend the festive feeling a bit. So, same here, nothing comes down before Jan 6th for me, even though I’m not really religious… just lazy.

  19. Alice

    My 16mo old gets so excited for us to turn the xmas lights on the tree and the mantle on every day when she gets home from school… I’m scared to take them down because it’s part of our daily routine now, ha. Also like so many others have said, they make my living/dining rooms so cozy and warm! I don’t want to go back to stark and barren and twinkle-light-less! Also I’m lazy and it’s so much work to pack everything away!

  20. Jenny

    For whatever reason, I get more joy out of my Christmas decorations AFTER Christmas, so I leave them up for a while. I loosely base it on the 12 days of Christmas, but I doubt I’ll take mine down until NEXT weekend. And even after the tree and nativity are taken down, I’ll leave up the strictly winter stuff for at least a month.

  21. Kalendi

    Flannel shirts! I wear them when I am chilly. I don’t button them and if I get warm I can roll up the sleeves or take it off easily.

    This year we didn’t have any Christmas decorations up because we were visiting family (who also didn’t have decorations up), so we had to rely on neighbor’s Christmas lights. Advantage: no decorations to take down. Disadvantage: no Christmas decorations at all. Early to mid-January is rough (with holiday letdown and all), and my poor hubby has his birthday in the middle of January.

  22. sooboo

    My husband pulled a forgotten lava lamp out of the closet and plugged it into a corner of the living room. It’s surprisingly soothing to see the colored globs move around. There’s a reason stoned, college kids like them, I guess! It does provide a nice glow on these still short days.

  23. Cara

    How do you feel about candles? I find a few strategically placed candles (all but one must be unscented) and some favorite music cheer the house up. Also, when I take down Christmas, I put back up the regular stuff so I use that time to reorganize and refresh. I actually kind of like it. (I also live in Florida, so the weather generally isn’t contributing to the doldrums.)

    That said, I scrapped my plans for taking down the Christmas tree today as I watched my girls playing in front of the fire, surrounded by decorations. They go back to school Monday, and I think that’s soon enough. (There’s always the possibility the “this must go now” bug will bite this weekend.)

  24. Ashley

    I take all of my Christmas stuff down on New Year’s Day because then it feels like a fresh start to me, but I agree that the house always looks so empty and dark in January. So this year I’m experimenting and I took down all the red and green Christmas tree/holly/reindeer/religious stuff and all of the outdoor lights but I left up the blue and white decorations that are just snow-related rather than Christmas-specific. I also like scented candles and normally light just one at a time every night, but when it’s this dark and cold out I like lighting a cluster of at least 4 or 5 candles. It looks pretty and warm.
    I figure I’ll leave the snow decorations out through January, and then I can switch over to the few Valentine’s Day decorations I have in February. Easter is April 1st this year so I can justify switching over to my spring/Easter decorations at the beginning of March, and then by the time we get past Easter it’s bright and warm enough that I start to get more concerned with how the outdoors looks than the indoors. By the time it starts getting cold and dark again I can put out Halloween decorations and the whole cycle starts over.

  25. Sarah

    Something else to try is a light wool cardigan. Merino isn’t scratchy if that’s an issue for you. Lambswool is nice, too. It keeps you nice and warm but let’s your body breathe a bit so you don’t overheat. Acrylic always makes me sweaty and I can’t wear it when I’m cold. Something else that’s nice is a silk long underwear style shirt. Cabela’s sells ones in plus sizes and it’s not super expensive, relatively speaking. The silk provides good warmth and doesn’t make you all humid. Anyway, I know all this sounds super fancy, but there you have it. One good wool sweater will see you through many winters.

  26. Alex

    Cashmere. Cashmere pants, cashmere tops, cashmere cape-like robes, cashmere everything. No itch and it keeps you magically temperature-regulated. It can be pricey but sales are abundant and it is WORTH IT.

    1. Matti

      Cashmere. Absolutely. My mom lives in a drafty old farm house in New England and she swears by a base layer of cashmere next to her skin. The warmth and body temperature regulation can’t be beat. And, if you’re wearing it as a base layer, it doesn’t have to be fancy. Hit up the local Goodwill or whatnot and see what you can find secondhand. My aunt claims that she can sort through the sweater section and locate the cashmere ones just by feel now :)

      1. Jessemy

        I’ve been bin-diving at our goodwill for wool sweaters too! I found a cardigan in cream wool and cashmere and I’ve never been prouder of myself. Paid for it by the pound (in other words, very cheaply). Yesssssss.

  27. Kirsty

    I follow my mother’s diktat – decorations come down on Twelfth Night, so 6 January. That’s when mine will come down. It does make the place look kind of empty for an hour or so, but I don’t actually put up that many, so it’s really only the tree. And once I’ve got over the emptiness, I relish the space…
    I’m a naturally, always-cold kind of person – one of the reasons I live in the south of France, though to my great disappointment it actually can get hideously cold here, and of course houses and flats are mostly very badly suited to cold weather. My flat, which is north-facing and on the raised ground floor, is almost impossible to heat when it’s really cold (not the case right now, it’s 16°C most days).
    To keep me warm, I don’t find that clothes do anything at all. I drink hot drinks, wrap a very fluffy blanket around my shoulders (I work from home, mostly sitting on the sofa and typing; I’m usually congealed with cold by mid-morning) and – my best tip – use a hot water bottle. I find the heat radiates beautifully.

    1. Jenny

      I got my always-cold husband a hot water bottle for Christmas last year and it was a huge, huge hit. He slept better than he has for years.

  28. Mary

    I feel like the odd man out in these comments. I couldn’t wait to take down the Christmas tree and decor. I had everything back in the attic by mid day on 12/26.

    1. Jessemy

      I have one! It can be really comforting. Also great for re-setting your clock if you have insomnia issues like me.

    1. Chrissy

      I just bought this cardigan and will wait until it arrives to take down the tree. :)

      Thanks for the recommendation! It will be perfect for my chilly office.

  29. Shawna

    My solution is EXPENSIVE and therefore not a practical solution for everyone, but we leave the Canadian winter behind and go somewhere tropical in late January/early February. As soon as the Christmas hubbub has died down, we look forward to our trip like it’s a lifeline.

    I don’t wear makeup, I shop for a lot of my clothes at thrift stores, I cut my own and my kids’ hair, I take public transit to work, etc., but all the cutting corners is worth it to look forward to that week in the heat midwinter.

  30. A

    Citrus. Eat it, smell it, decorate with it. Citrus is in season during the winter, and they are like little orbs of edible sunshine. Coincidence? Absolutely (but it’s fun to think it’s not a coincidence).

    Candles, like all the time. I read this about candles at breakfast, and I freaking love the idea. We’ve gotten big into candles. I would also like to get some electric candle thing with a remote or timer. I do a double check that we haven’t left a candle burning before bed, but there’s still the fire risk in the back of my mind.

    Hygge is probably way overdone and misunderstood here in the US, but damn, it’s a great concept. See candles all the time above, huge in hygge. Cozy spaces. Fluffy blankets. Maybe fairy lights as hygge rather than Christmas?

    The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is hilarious, if you’re looking for laughs.

  31. Allison

    I got nothing. I tried leaving the stair-rail garland up last year for the same reason, but it was just sad. This year we decluttered the living room so well before decorating that I’m hoping Unusually Clean Space in the House will be my misery-lessening thing for January. Also, I’m almost always too warm except for when I’m not – it’s minus a million here right now and our bedroom is a deep freeze. My winter house uniform is leggings, t-shirt and work socks. When i get really cold I swap for fleece-lined reading socks and a giant blankety cardigan, but I can only wear those while sitting and reading – as soon as i start moving around again they’re too warm.

  32. Becky

    It has been COLD here in MN- as in, single digits seem warm and we have had many below 0 highs since Christmas. I was happy to return to school because sitting in my cold house ( turning up the heat is expensive). But, we have had indoor recess all week – and our kids go out if the windchill is warmer than -10. So I am at school with children who have not properly played outside in 2 weeks. What is saving my sanity? Heated throws. I asked for them for Christmas and got 3. That is enough for the living room, basement and bed. They are awesome!

    1. Jessemy

      Also in Minnesota! With an energetic 4 year old. Interestingly, she has been very sad that the decorating aspect of Christmas has passed, so we spent some time decorating for new year, pretend-decorating for birthday (November). I was relieved to take down the Christmas stuff because it makes me sad but I did leave a string of globey summery lights on an arch because I associate them with lots of different holidays. I totally get why my Mom always has a January funk now. December with littles is so cheerful. We’re in withdrawal!

      Going to concentrate on some knitting and reading and general hygge-style coziness to carry out the winter!

  33. Shannon

    I haven’t read the other comments, so I apologize if this is a repeat but have you read about hygge? It’s this Danish (?) concept about being snug and cozy in your house with warm beverages, candles and books. I also like to force bulbs in a bowl with just river rocks (like from Michael’s) and water. I’ve also been keeping battery powered tea lights in fake mercury glass holders at night in my nightstand which feels super hygge to me 😍

  34. JC

    I think that one of the biggest issues with January is that after New Years (which is only 0.5 in January anyway) there are no fun holidays for the rest of the month and it’s cold and dark and you just finished up so many fun holidays in the previous months. So. Make a holiday! Pick a day and call it whatever you want and do whatever you want. You can incorporate taking down decorations if you want and include a special treat once it’s all done. I like to make a “taking down Christmas stuff” playlist of power songs that make me feel like dancing/cleaning. Last year I picked a day in January and it was “treat yourself day” and I planned ahead all of the random stuff that I wanted to do and eat and it was great. I ate raw cookie dough and re-watched Planet Earth and bought myself thick fuzzy socks that always looked so inviting at the store and saved them up specifically for that day. For 24 hours I purposefully silenced the little voice that says “I should…”. “I should go for a walk and get off my butt”. NO. “I should answer that email from my mom”. NO. “I should clean the space under the sink”. NOPE. NOT TODAY. I sincerely look forward to doing it again this year and it takes the edge of having to go back to my stressful workplace on Monday.

  35. shin ae

    My solution is never, ever removing the Christmas lights. Ever.

    I get that it’s not for everyone, though.

    The other thing I’m going to try this year is houseplants. I’m hoping the greenness and possibly the tiny poofs of oxygen will help.

  36. april

    I’ve continued to watch Hallmark after the Christmas movies have stopped, and that’s really my reason for living right now. Formulaic silly romantic movies – bring it on.


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