I did not put up a Christmas tree this year, although I usually put one up around Thanksgiving and keep it around until at least New Year’s (actually, it’s always ‘around’ in the sense that it’s fake, it just spends a lot of time in the basement). I really enjoy having the tree; I love decorating it with ornaments that I’ve collected through the years, all of which are special to me for one reason or another, and as I unwrap and place each one I’m reminded of things like when I got it and why I chose it, who gave it to me, or who it used to belong to. I put multiple strands of lights on the tree, a tree skirt for the presents to sit on, and a star on top–the whole deal.
This year, however, I have two 1-year-old boy cats that like to run, jump, climb, and eat whatever they can get their little, adorable paws on. The tree was an obvious no.
Regardless of the sad state of my home and its holiday decor, I recently learned something that I can take into consideration the next time I am able to put the tree up–and that is when to take it back down. I never knew that there were traditions about this, so I may be late to this game. It seems that one should have their tree and all decorations put away by the Twelfth Night holiday. Simple, right? Sort of. January 5 is the twelfth day after Christmas Eve, while January 6 is the twelfth day after Christmas. January 6 is also the holiday of Epiphany, which marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas, and the revealing of the newborn Jesus to the three wise men. So, which night is the real Twelfth Night? It seems that you can choose whether you go with the eve before January 6, or the eve of–according to the book Holiday Symbols and Customs, most celebrate it on the night of Epiphany, the 6th. Which is the twelfth. Choose wisely, though–tradition holds that anyone with decorations still up will suffer bad luck in the coming year.
But wait…there’s more! There is also a tradition that one put away their Christmas tree and decorations on February 2, which is Candlemas–a holiday that marks the presentation of Jesus at the temple, and involves the lighting of many candles to represent the belief that he was a light for the world. The book Folklore of World Holidays states that this marks the end of the Christmas holiday. One representation of that end is that people put away their crèche–which is a Christmas decoration. Again, leaving up the decorations past this date can bring bad luck, even death. Of course, February 2 is also groundhog day, which at first seems unrelated to all of this, until you recall that the little groundhog (or bear or hedgehog, depending on your location) comes out to check his shadow, which is related to the amount of light.
So…short story made a bit long, there is definitely a date by which, according to various traditions, one should take down their Christmas tree and decorations. Three, in fact. Stop by the Information Desk to do a little research and help you pick which date you’ll use.