It's over, another season that stretched from Halloween through mid-January. Despite the best efforts of the world of commerce to extend it from September to February, Father Time pushed the chunky guy with the white beard out the door along with the red-nosed deer, and started the prep work for lawnmower sales. Even before good Old St. Nick waved good-bye and buckled himself into the sleigh, Grandma started dragging cardboard boxes up from the basement to store the seasonal trappings. The house will soon return to normal, whatever that is!

Putting away all the Christmas decorations takes time. It's not just disposing of the tree and carefully boxing ornaments, but also the other embellishments that add to an already well-adorned house.

If the tree came from the nearest tree lot, it needs to be eased out of the house carefully, as the needles are usually crispy. Moving it a short distance is a challenge without cascades of little green spikes that tumble from the branches and grip the carpet like porcupine quills. Good luck getting them up with a vacuum cleaner. Might as well plunk down on the floor and extract them - one by one.

Artificial trees are much easier to manage, but pulling out each branch and storing it is tedious, unless you get a tree that collapses like an umbrella. If you go an even more expensive route after winning the lottery, a height-adjustable mechanical tree is the ticket, although as the tree "grows," it does remind one of the "Blob" movies of the '50s.

Every year there are new formulations of strands of lights waking up the night, drooping from roofs and dormers. With the push toward more energy efficiency, LED strings in a variety of colors are a suitable replacement for the old multi-colored incandescent bulbs.

The lights are a winner with their variety, but they can't hang there through the seasons, snagging leaves and spiders. January is usually not a good time for removal of all the twinkle with a good chance of frostbitten fingers for the effort. Waiting for a thaw to take the strings off is a good option, but I'll bet most folks will remove them when the tulips emerge in the spring.

Squirrels don't seem to be as attracted to the new cost-effective LEDs. They must be off munching on something else. I was always surprised that there weren't fluffy gray bodies spread around under the eaves, stunned or electrocuted.

One of the more challenging aspects of ending the Christmas season is preserving family heirlooms. Fragile glass ornaments, passed down from Great Aunt Martha or Grandma Rose, require special care. Covered individually in bubble wrap and placed carefully in a box overflowing with styrofoam peanuts, they will be there for future children's "ohs" and "ahs."

Then there's the construction-paper remnants of the elementary grades. In addition to paper ornaments that look like candy canes and wise men, kindergarten school pictures endure. The little scholars' images are immortalized, pasted painstakingly on cotton balls and strands of knitting yarn, custom made for hanging on a tree. The fuzzy angels soon run out of favor as kids blow by third grade.

Another Christmas holiday season has passed. Don't worry, the Easter Bunny is just around the corner. How are you at coloring eggs?

Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and licensed psychologist. Write to him at