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Annie in Austin
Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.
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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Stubborn Irish People From Chicago

This post, "Stubborn Irish People From Chicago", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

As some of you may have guessed, we were away from Austin for a few weeks and I'm having trouble returning to everyday life. It will take a long time to get reordered and catch up with all your posts, but that's not the reason why my Christmas tree is still up and the outside lights are still lit... the reason is that my maternal ancestors were a bunch of stubborn Chicago Irish people who always kept their trees up until Epiphany, the 6th of January. And at this time of year, I'm proud to be one of them.

My brothers and sisters and I were raised in this tradition, calling the day "Little Christmas", a time for visiting with aunts, uncles and cousins. Sometimes we stayed at one location - other times finger food was served at one house and desserts at another, with mixed drinks for the adults and 'Kiddie cocktails' for the youngsters - would anyone dare serve them today? Most houses had a piano or one of the electric organs that were so popular in the fifties and sixties - a couple of the aunts could play and everyone could sing. The party may have been stressful for the hosts and hostesses but we kids thought it was all wonderful.

Although I'm far away from my family and many of those people are no longer around to celebrate Little Christmas, the lights will shine here for a few more nights, to puzzle the neighbors and add a little sparkle to the January darkness.

There were a couple of hard freezes while we were gone and we came back to a garden that had changed greatly from the one we left - MSS from Zanthan Gardens referred to her rosebuds as 'freeze-dried'... I like that phrase enough to swipe it to describe the iris buds as they look now. A 2006 birthday gift from my mother and sisters was a miniature rose bush... I divided it into 3 plants last spring and one of them was still blooming yesterday near the shelter of a brick wall.

The Sasanqua camellia 'Shishi Gashira' seems untroubled by the colder weather - with just a few more buds not yet opened.

Inside the house the barely budded Thanksgiving cactus from the previous Blooms Day post had opened in the hoped for peachy-apricot color, which I like very much in the breakfast room.

Peachy-apricot must be the in color this January - back in November I decided to bring the Mother-of Thousands inside rather than let it freeze - my reward was a few delicate flowers in that shade... but they didn't appear on the usual 3-foot stalk. The plant was already taller than usual when I brought it in and it kept elongating all of December. Now the flowers hang almost at eye level, 58 inches above the surface of the potting soil.

Happy New Year to all of you who have made the world of garden blogging such a warm and interesting place!

This post, "Stubborn Irish People From Chicago", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.


  1. I like to leave my tree up until Epiphany too, although some years it disappears early due to the return of the day care children. But the lights stay up for sure through the 6th and I'm not the only one on my street! Your mother-of thousands is really impressive! and your sasanqua is still blooming! Mine is I think, bloomed out.

  2. A little hello from Switzerland where most of the people also keep their Christmas trees until January 6. It is nice to hear how you celebrated "little Christmas" years ago. That must have been real fun. Why not start again this custom?
    Have a healthy and happy 2008!

  3. Okay, I'll confess that growing up my family was quick to take down the Christmas decorations, but I've established the tradition of leaving them until Jan. 1, then they come down, BUT I leave my nativity set up until Epiphany.

    I love those flowers, especially the apricot flowering Thanksgiving cactus. But in the last photo, there on the right, are those some Meyer Lemons? They look ready to pick!

    Welcome back, have a Merry Little Christmas!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  4. When Christmas is over, it's over. We put up our tree either on Thanksgiving or the day after, and it comes down as soon as the presents are unwrapped! (or, if we are traveling, as soon as we get home. This year it was the 27th).

    Love your plants. I was really yearning after your mother-of-thousands until I saw how tall it is! What a beautiful plant!

    Merry Little Christmas to you!

  5. We've got you beat, Annie. We rednecks keep our Christmas lights up until July and some all year round !
    That could've come from those stubborn Irish that settled the South as well.

    'Happy Christmas ' as they say in Ireland and Happy New Year to you and yours as well.

  6. Stubborn German people from the midwest also leave their Christmas decorations until Epiphany ;-) My mother always insists that's the proper way to do it. No extra parties though :-(

  7. Happy New Year and glad to have you back. I missed reading your always interesting posts.

    One year we had our tree up well into February! I can't remember what kind it was but it kept its needles and remained fresh until we took it down. We always buy the tree the day after Thanksgiving so it was up for a good 3 months +. Quite amazing.

    Your 'Shishigashira' looks terrific. Much healthier looking than mine which is suffering from the cold. It's good that I don't live in Austin for I think I would go wild collecting many varieties of Camellias to the detriment of my wallet. I also love the look of your Mother of Thousands.

  8. Welcome home.Since you have been away visiting a few days to rest and enjoy your own decorations must be welcome.
    Except for a quick trip out to Lasalle county where our son and family lives we mostly stayed home this year. The cut tree was put up 10 days before Christmas and removed by the weekend following.Everything else is still up and may remain so for a couple of weeks. The grandchildren were trying to eat the stale candy from the gingerbread house they helped us decorate so I had best toss it.
    Were you up here for the snow? Were you glad to leave it behind?
    Here's to another year!!!

  9. Many of the geneabloggers were talking about this tradition last month and I was surprised at how many still followed it. John's birthday is the 6th so we've switched to birthday decorations.

    I love the color of your Thanksgiving cactus.

    Merry Christmas!

  10. I'm so glad to read in your post and in the comments that other people celebrate the Epiphany. Me too. I've always celebrated the 12 Days of Christmas. I've never been organized enough to get my preparations done before Christmas Day and so I'd give presents and bake cookies throughout the Christmas season.

    I used to finish up with a bang by having a big party for the Epiphany. Everyone was always too busy before Christmas and out of town over the holidays--so it all worked out.

    Maybe next year...if we ever finish the accursed garden house.

  11. Missed you, Annie, but it sounds like you had a good holiday away. I put the tree outside today, though I undecorated it two days ago--the back door was frozen and the deck was covered in snow til this morning, when my dearly beloved cleared it off. It was dropping needles like crazy, even though it had had plenty of water.
    I love the peachy colours too--very cheery and fresh at this time of year.

  12. Always a treat to hear from you and to visit your neat blog. Good for you for keeping your Christmas tree up per your Irish family tradition...here in Mississippi lots of folks think it is "bad luck" to leave them up past New Year's Day...kind of dumb I think...enjoy it as long as you please. Hope 2008 brings you all the best. Jon at http://mississippigarden.blogspot.com

  13. I have never heard of epiphany until now. I would be unhappy to see my entire family all over again 12 days after Christmas. And I would be stressed about having the tree still up too.

    (Well, someone has to provide a contrary voice. Might as well be me.)

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  15. Hi Leslie - have fun with the kids! There are just a few buds left - maybe my sasanqua started later?

    Thank you for visiting, Barbara, and for letting me know the trees stay up in Switzerland, too. I'll bet there are family parties on the 6th here in Austin, too - but I don't have any family here so no invites. Happy 2008 to you.

    Carol, do you do everything so logically and in stages?
    Those are Meyer Lemons. We used a few for the Thanksgiving Cranberry relish and carried a couple of them to Chicagoland for our son and daughter-in-law.

    Merry Little Christmas to you!

    Welcome, Sherry - it's fun to see you in the blog world! My tree never goes up that early - I like to put it up closer to December 6th, the feast of St Nicholas. So we both have the stuff up for about a month, but the span is shifted.
    What does "kathy the oldest sister" do?

    Oh Carolyn, you crack me up...Austin has a lot of twinkle lights up all year, too - strung up around patios and porches. Happy New Year to you.

    Hello Entangled - guess you should always listen to your mom~ but have a party, too. Happy 2008.

    Hello Ki - may your new year be a good one, too. I liked your February tree story.
    This little camellia looked terrible for quite awhile and didn't bloom last year. Camellias aren't recommended here, but sometimes do okay if you find the right spot.

    Hello Gloria - you are so right - when we get back I really need some time sitting near our own Christmas tree with candles and oil lamps burning, a cup of tea and a movie on DVD.

    We drove up in a terrible storm, but once the roads were cleared, the snow still looked beautiful to me. May 2008 be good to you!

    Hi Apple - thanks for the note - it seems that an Epiphany tradition comes from many different countries. Happy Birthday to John.
    My fingers were crossed that plant would bloom a peachy color.

    Hello MSS - your pattern for celebrating the Christmas seasonseems fine to me.

    I don't have a garden house, either accursed or blessed, but like the idea of hosting an Epiphany party, too. Or attending one.

    Thank you, Jodi - we cut a real tree at a tree farm for nearly 30 years in IL, but increasing allergies convinced us to get an artificial tree here in Texas. Even the fake ones drop a few needles every year!

    Oh, that's something new to me, Jon - and it makes me wonder if that's one reason why so many Austinites take their trees down on the 26th. Your fabulous decor must take almost as long to take down as to put up! Happy New Year to you.

    Oh Chuck - we always need a contrary voice! Well actually, I always need your voice, contrary or not. Some people call it Feast of Three Kings. One cute little custom for those with Nativity scenes featuring moveable figures was to start out the statues of the 3 Kings/Wise Men/Magi at a distance from the stable, then inch them closer each day, not letting them enter the scene until the night of the 5th.

    I'd be thrilled to see my entire family again 12 days after Christmas.

    Sorry Barb - only genuine comments allowed.... not fake comments with advertisements.

    Thanks for all the real comments!


  16. Happy New Year, Annie!

    I'm in the 'Epiphany' school of Christmas decoration removal (although I often keep a string of coloured lights glowing in the front window for weeks. They make winter seem less bleak at times).

    The colour of the Camellia is eye-catching. I like it, especially in the middle of winter here.

    The flowers on the Mother-of-Thousands plant (tree?) is a gorgeous colour. I love it.

    Are those Meyer lemons peeking out in the last photograph? They look ripe for the picking!

    Have a good weekend and good luck with the easing back into life in Austin.

  17. Yours sounds like a lovely tradition. My tree, however, absolutey must GO right after Christmas. Maybe it's because we have a little living room, and the tree takes up too much space. But as soon as Xmas is over, that tree is out the door and waiting to be turned into mulch.

  18. I'd never heard of "Epiphany" either until this year...I think my family had always removed Christmas decorations about the end of January, whether we "needed it or not"...but I like the education in tradition! I do SO understand the stubbornnes of the Irish, as well as the Scotch, German, English, and Indian American that I am...I choose to call it tenacity and embrace it wholeheartedly. :) But I say an "end of Christmas/Epiphany party is in order, IMO...so Happy New Year and all that!!!

  19. We always observe Epiphany, so the tree and decorations have to stay up until then. Also, for us Louisiana French, it marks the beginning of Carnival, so we can eat King Cakes from now through Mardi Gras. Now we have to decide between Strawberry Cream Cheese or German Chocolate-filled. Yum! By the way, I love your peachy flowers!

  20. Annie,

    We have friends (Greek and Polish) who observe "Little Christmas" and stay lit up and decorated for a week after New Year's Day (unlike my tradition of ending it all on New Year's Day.) I was always a little jealous of them as I dread ending the season of lights.

    Your hard frosts obviously did't do too much hard as I see a lot of color around your gardens - inside and out! My miniature roses finally succumbed to temps in the teens. Won't see them until April, I guess.

    I am so glad you are back! Take your good old time catching up and undecorating. There's always tomorrow.


  21. Our tree is still up too Annie. I felt the need to enjoy it a while longer because we were away over Christmas..and again to see the grandkids this weekend. I love the way the lights add color to the winter drab, so am always reluctant to take them down.
    I'm glad you were able to spend Christmas with your family and had a safe trip up through the snow storm.
    Sending a hug xoxo

  22. How about Stubborn Italian People from Chicago? Although my family left "La Befana" (the witch who brings presents on Epiphany) in the old country, we also leave the Christmas tree & decorations up 'til Epiphany. Of course it's easier if you have an artificial tree, but we don't put the tree up until the middle of December because we also celebrate the season of Advent as a distinct thing from Christmas. The former choir director at our church used to hold a "Lessons & Carols" the first weekend after New Years so that the congregation could enjoy the music of Christmas without stress & distractions. But I must say I am so ready to take everything down today. Let Carnivale begin!

  23. Welcome Back Annie and a very happy and healthy New Year to you and Philo.

    Both my maternal and paternal grandparents celebrated Epiphany too every year and their children were not allowed to put the 3 Kings near the stable until the 6th of January. My Christmas tree is still standing proud, I put it up 1 day before Christmas. I leave the tree and decorations until after the 6th.

    It's nice to see your roses flower Annie. Eventhough we had frost over here some of my roses are still flowering too. Amazing, don't you think?

  24. Annie, good to see you back. Your freeze dried garden is better than our mushy gray one.

    I too celebrated little christmas when young. We don't do that now but I will be taking our decorations down tomorrow. :/ I just hate that we have to put away the bright lights during this dull dark time of the year.

  25. More gorgeous pictures! I love coming here to see the pictures.

    I always keep Christmas things up until the Epiphany as well. That's what the 12 Days of Christmas are all about. Good for you!

  26. Welcome back and a joyous new year. In Trinidad we keep up the lights and decorations at least until New Year's, and as children, we followed the European tradition and kept it until the 6th of January-so you have some more company there!
    Its always nice to return home to some pretty blooms-peachy-apricot
    (along with salmon and orange) are among my favorite shades in flowers.

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  28. I wondered what had happened to you! I've missed your posts. As for the tree and decorations, we start taking them down Jan. 2. It took 4 days but everything is now put away and the house has an echo.

  29. Hi Annie,

    So glad you're back. Missed your thoughts and pictures. We celebrate Epiphany too, at least at church. My tree stayed up this year until the day before Little Christmas.

  30. Happy New Year, Annie and welcome back.

    I really like the color of your Thanksgiving cactus.

  31. It's so good to have you back, Annie! Wow, that "Mother of Thousands" bloom is something else! And the Christmas Cactus! I don't normally like those all that well, but yours is gorgeous. I might have to try one after all.

    Best wishes to you in the new year, Annie!

  32. "Little Christmas"--what a wonderful tradition. It sounds like you have many fond memories of those who are no longer there to celebrate with you.

    Your cactus is beautiful!

  33. Welcome back Annie! Good stubborn Irish stock! I should know, we're probably cousins. ;-)

    Regarding Epiphany: Some folks in our first neighborhood in Missouri would gather their live Christmas trees together in a big open field behind our houses after Epiphany and make a big bonfire with them. Everyone would gather & watch it burn and it seemed rather pagan and Primal to me which thrilled me as well. Everyone sang carols, roasted marshmallows and hot-dogs & the moms brought hot chocolate and cider. It was lovely!

    Best to You,

  34. Hi Kate - if dragonfly patio lights ever go on sale they'd be glowing here in winter.
    One of the lemons fell off the other day.

    The officials in Austin must feel the same way, Pam/Digging - municipal tree recycling is scheduled a week too early in my opinion.

    With that tenacious mix you should always be able to come up with a reason to party, Lisa! See the next comment for some inspiration ;-]

    Welcome Therese - German chocolate King Cake? I made one a few years ago but don't remember chocolate in the recipe. Maybe that's why we didn't make it again!

    Thanks for noting that lots of traditions celebrate Epiphany, Mary - guess we all need the light. I'd better post some photos of how winter really looks here.

    Our tree came down on Monday, Kerri - we kept our tradition but needed to pack up the Christmas stuff so a car could get in the garage. Hugs to you - and I hope your snow trips are safe, too.

    Oh! I forgot about "La Befana", Mr McGregor's Daughter - a beloved tale from my childhood storybook. The lessons and carols idea is interesting - I play a few carols during undecorating.

    Hello Yolanda Elizabet and best wishes for a happy & healthy New Year to you, too.
    The roses have amazed me, also - so delicate looking but undaunted by light freezes.

    Lisa at Greenbow, do you like to make a little ceremony out of the undecorating? I usually throw on some favorite DVD, and somehow end up with one that makes me tear up!
    Light some candles ;-]

    Thank you, Josie - that old song was one of the ones I played on the 6th - time to put the Christmas sheet music away!

    Hello Nicole - and may your new year be a good one - you are sure not looking at a gray or brown world, however - the flowers don't stop in your land!

    Besides being gone, I'm just plain slow at catching up, Phillip! Shifting from IL to TX can be hard.
    No echo here, but with the tree down there's more light coming in from the window - that I noticed!

    Happy New Year Dee! Thanks for the welcome... and it sounds as if we may be welcoming you to Austin in April - Yippee!

    Thank you Robin from Nesting Place - peach-toned flowers have a fan club ;-]

    The "Mother of Thousands" was a surprise to me, too Kylee - and it's even taller now... hope 2008 is a good one for you!

    I do have fond memories Zoey - the previous generation was rich with memorable and interesting characters.

    Hi Dawn - that could be a fun thing to discover!

    Pagan and Primal could be very cool in Austin when the fire bans aren't in effect. Your story reminds me of a Yule Log ceremony in a church parking lot back in the 80's - hot beverages, cookies and carol singing around a blazing fire.

    Thank you all for the comments - Carnivale runs until February 5th this year... still time to make your King Cake.


  35. Well, I'm a bit late (but I've always wished their was more holiday AFTER and less holiday BEFORE...the actual holidays...) - but happy belated New Year! I hope that it will be an interesting one for you - with wonderful new plants to watch grown, and fun songs to sing - and I'd love to make the trek to your neck of the woods to meet up, but I fear I'm traveling too much for other reasons to be able to do so. But it would be nice to meet you, one day! (ps I enjoyed your 2007 retrospective).

  36. Pam, it's fun to get a comment- doesn't matter if it's immediate!
    Maybe the pendulum will swing back and post-Christmas celebrations will be in vogue again... and this time we'll be among the early adopters.
    It would be good to meet you one day, either in TX or SC - perhaps "when waiting is filled" as Heinlein's Michael might say.



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