If you’re panicking about finding the time to take your Christmas tree down, you can relax — tradition has it that you have plenty of days well into the new year to remove all traces of the festive season from your home.
In fact, some consider it unlucky to take the tree down before the Twelfth Night, a.k.a. the Feast of Epiphany or Three Kings Day. The problem is, there’s some debate around what day that actually is, leading people to furiously Googling, “When should I take my Christmas tree down?”
What we know for sure is that Christmas, which is the date of Jesus Christ’s birth as well as an old pagan date for mid-winter celebrations, formally begins on Dec. 25. It took the Three Wise Men some time — 13 days, to be specific — to reach Bethlehem to visit baby Jesus. Their arrival signals the end of the Christmas celebrations.
So if we count 12 days from Dec. 25, we reach Jan. 5. According to the Church of England, as reported in The Telegraph, this is the Twelfth Night, which makes Jan. 6 the day of Epiphany. However, Christian groups in other countries (including Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic) start counting from Dec. 26, which makes Jan. 6 the Twelfth Night and Jan. 7 the Epiphany.
Twelfth Night is a big celebration in some cultures, a time for communities to mark the end of the Christmas holidays with one last bit of revelry and a king cake.
You definitely still want your decorations up for that!
But even if you’re not celebrating Twelfth Night, if you’re the superstitious sort, you’ll want to stick to this Twelfth Night timeline (whichever one you choose) for taking the tree down. According to one superstition, Christmas decorations not taken down by Twelfth Night should be left intact until Candlemas Day, Feb. 2. Others go even further and advise leaving them up until Twelfth Night the following year!
Meanwhile, you might be wondering what to do with your unwanted Christmas tree once you do take it down. Eco-friendly options include finding a recycling program. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, there are more than 4,000 local tree recycling programs across the country.