The Christmas tree has been taken down and the decorations put away. We were a little late this year, probably because it was really hard to part with the idea of peace and joy this particular holiday season. With COVID-19 cases escalating so quickly, it was important to concentrate on something happy for a little longer.

We are always cheerfully old-fashioned about Christmas. We do our baking the week before, put up the outside lights maybe just a week prior to that. The tree may get wrestled up a couple of days by the twenty-second, but it's not decorated. That's for us to do together as a family on Christmas Eve.

Lots of people put up their trees weeks before, and it's great for getting into the holiday spirit. We hold off and increase our anticipation that way. When the tree is finally decorated and the lights are switched on, that's when Christmas starts for us. My family has always kept the ancient tradition -- and it's fun. When others have already carted the tree to the curb, we're just getting rolling.

The tree stays up until Twelfth Night -- nearly two weeks of holiday for us, working or not. Those twelve nights have always been a time for friends, for gathering, for visiting -- for two birthdays, a party on New Year's Eve; for games, singing, and dancing; for first-footing.

When something bad happens during the holidays, it is made even worse because we have expectations of fun and togetherness -- not grief. This year was like that for many people and even though we couldn't all get together as usual, we knew we were so very lucky -- we can still have a next year. And so, we held each other a little closer these past Twelve Days.

The Death of the Limping Man takes place during the Twelve Days -- from murder to arrest. I revised the story a little after this Christmas to make sure the people in the story -- stunned by tragedy and revelation -- would cling to each other a bit more. You see, I noticed that there weren't nearly as many Christmas trees as usual out at the curb on 27 December.

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