Let’s face it, the worst part of the end of Christmas festivities – other than having to go back to work – is the sad moment that you realise the tree and decorations have to be taken down.
That’s the moment which really does signify that Christmas is over for another year, and that the turkey sandwiches and three mince pies a day have to stop.
Superstition dictates that it’s bad luck to keep those decorations up for too long after the Yuletide celebrations – but when do they need to come down by, and why does that tradition exist?
When are we supposed to take our Christmas decorations down?
To be honest, there’s no hard-and-fast rule about this, and if you decided to keep your decorations up all year no-one would stop you – though you might get some odd looks from your neighbours.
However, we’re sticklers for tradition in this country, and that states it’s bad luck to leave your tree, baubles and tinsel hanging up past Twelfth Night.
This marks the beginning of Epiphany, the Christian festival falling on January 6 which celebrates Jesus being visited by the Magi (otherwise known as the Three Wise Men).
Annoyingly, there’s no specific date for Twelfth Night – some churches (including Anglican) believe it falls on the evening before Epiphany – January 5 – while others say it is actually on January 6 itself.
To complicate things further, people in other countries believe decorations should come down even earlier – on December 31, before midnight strikes. That way, you avoid dragging any bad luck from the past year into the new one.
So what happens if I leave my decorations up beyond these dates?
The belief is that leaving your decorations up past this point will bring misfortune to the household.
Should you forget to take them down before Twelfth Night, tradition states that you should leave them up until Candlemas (February 2). Or Shrove Tuesday. Or even until Twelfth Night the following year, depending on which superstition you choose to believe.
In fact, in the not too distant past, decorations were supposed to stay up until Candlemas. According to author Niall Edworthy, “Candlemas in old times represented the end of the Christmas holidays, which, when "fine old leisure" reigned, were far longer than they are now.”
Candlemas remained the usual time to take decorations down until the 19th century. Many Christian countries beyond the UK still leave their decorations up until this point.