For those of us who’ve already returned to work, Christmas seems more like a distant memory with each hour that passes. A clean start to the New Year is always a good thing, but confusion about exactly when to take down the Christmas tree and decorations continues to abound.
In a bid to avoid any further bad luck (we’ve had our share in 2020, thanks), we establish when it’s time to put the tinsel away for another year – and it’s not as straightforward as it might seem.
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Here’s everything you need to know.
In the UK, tradition dictates that Christmas decorations remain up until Twelfth Night.
Twelfth Night is a Christian festival marking the beginning of Epiphany.
A count of exactly 12 days from 25 December takes us to 5 January. According to the Church of England, this day is Twelfth Night.
However, the day of Epiphany falls on the following day – 6 January.
Other Christian groups may count the 12 days of Christmas from Boxing Day, however, which makes 6 January Twelfth Night.
Countries such as Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic all consider the Twelfth Night to fall on this day, for example.
Epiphany is a time when Christians remember the Wise Men (or Three Kings) who were said to have visited Jesus after his birth.
It’s also a time for Christians to remember the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist when he was a man.
The word ‘epiphany’ means revelation and both incidences above relate to important moments in the life of Jesus.
Up until the 19th century, the Epiphany was more significant than Christmas Day, with celebrations marking the arrival of the Three Wise Men in the Bible.
Christians believe that the twelve days represent the time it took for the Wise Men to travel to Bethlehem and recognise Jesus as the son of God.
As recently as the 1950s, Christians would mark Twelfth Night by wassailing.
Similarly to carol singing, this involved going door-to-door to wish neighbours good health and happiness for the forthcoming year.
The six Sundays which follow Epiphany are known as the time of manifestation, and the last Sunday of the Epiphany is celebrated as Transfiguration Sunday.
Celebrations for the Christian feast day vary around the world, which is a public holiday for many.
The event is particularly popular in the Spanish-speaking world where gifts are often exchanged.
In Mexico, crowds gather to taste the King’s bread on Dia de los Reyes (Three King’s Day).
And in Prague and Venice, a traditional Three King’s swim takes place in freezing waters.
Both are correct, but Tuesday 5 January is the date most people in the UK tend to conform to.
In ancient times, people believed that tree spirits lived in the decorations people used to bedeck their homes, such as holly and ivy.
Failing to ‘release’ the spirits before Christmas ended was believed to result in crop failures and food problems.
While many people’s trees are in fact plastic these days, some people choose to hold on to these old superstitions.