……otherwise known as “Twelfth night” meaning the twelfth day after Christmas, which means the end of the “twelve days of Christmas”, also known as Twelvetide in some circles or Chrismastide in others; and generally referred to as the official end of Christmas/the festive season and/or most importantly, the day widely believed (especially if you’re British!), as the day when your Christmas tree/Christmas decorations should be taken down.
Ok. Thank you. So what day is that then?
Good question. I was waiting for you to ask. Depending on your religious leaning, superstitious tendencies or planet you live on, the twelfth day after Christmas is either January 5th or 6th. Yes. Either or. For example, if you are Church of England (Anglican), Twelfth Night is celebrated on Jan 5th as the night before “Epiphany”, Epiphany being the day the three wise men finally arrived to see the baby Jesus, bearing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And I just thought epiphany meant “big revelation/big idea”. Err, I guess.
It clearly wasn’t about 12 drummers drumming.
It gets even more interesting. In some traditions, the Twelfth Night can precede the Twelfth Day. “If Christmas Day is the first of the twelve days, then Twelfth Night would be on January 5, the eve of Epiphany. If December 26, the day after Christmas, is the first day, then Twelfth Night falls on January 6, the evening of Epiphany itself”. Forbes, Bruce (2008). Christmas: A Candid History.
The origins of Twelfth Night dates back to medieval times and Tudor England (period between 1485 and 1603) in England and Wales. It was believed, if decorations are not removed on Twelfth night, it would bring bad luck. People believed that tree-spirits lived in the greenery (holy, ivy etc) used in decorating their houses. With the greenery inside the house, tree-spirits were safe from the harsh midwinter days. Once this period was over, it was time to return said greenery back outside and to release the tree-spirits into the countryside whence they belong! The bad luck being that, if you don’t, vegetation wouldn’t start growing again ie spring would not return ie agricultural disaster ensuing…..
You get the picture.
Twelfth Night was a general time for merrimenting. Eating, dancing, singing. And in 1950s Britain, “wassailing”. What? Alright. Wassail is a beverage of hot, mulled cider. The word is old English. ‘Nuff said. Wassailers go from house to house singing (wassailing), wishing their neighbours good health and a drink from the wassail bowl. Olden days carol singers more or less. It’s making a comeback too, who doesn’t like a cheerful carol singer? There was even a “Twelfth Night cake”, a fruitcake with a bean or trinket baked into it – if you find it, luck and or prosperity are yours. Doesn’t say when or how though.
All power to the interwebs, the source of all that is good and true. And sometimes, fake news.
Twelfth night is also a title of a play by the great Bard himself, William Shakespeare.
The whole point of this story is – when do you take down/get rid of your real/fake Christmas tree/Christmas decorations? I think there are a several kinds of people in the world.
- Those who can’t wait to get rid of the tree immediately after New Year’s Day. Most likely because it’s been up since October (the “it’s EIGHTY FIVE DAYS TO CHRISTMAS!!!” types) or Thanksgiving (US Nov 24, the “after all it’s almost Christmas” types), and who now suffer from LED fever.
- Those who do take it down Jan 5th/6th, Twelfth Nighters/by the first weekend of the year/as soon as they can, because, well, it’s back to work/holiday is over/can we just remove that tree and move on with life etc etc.
- Those who take it down whenever, end of January/as you please or if you’re like my good friend Nigel, in July.
Oh, I failed to mention. There’s also “Candlemas”, another religious/epiphany related event which falls on February 2nd (Forty days after December 25). In certain countries, this is the day the Christmas tree/Christmas decorations get taken down. I’m stopping here. Look it up for yourself.
Photo cred, yours truly. Before and after shots of my first 7.5 ft pre-lit fake Christmas tree in my new home. No I didn’t just move the tree away to take the photo, I was tempted though…..