When should you take your Christmas tree and decorations down? Twelfth Night and Epiphany traditions explained

Knowing when to discard your Christmas tree can save you a bout of bad luck (Getty Images)
Knowing when to discard your Christmas tree can save you a bout of bad luck (Getty Images)
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Too early and you’re a Scrooge, too late and you’re in for a bout of bad luck – here’s when you should dress down your tree, according to tradition. 

Christmas tradition dictates that decorated trees should be removed on either January 5 or 6 rather than Boxing Day.These designated dates align with the Christian celebrations of Twelfth Night and Epiphany.

But why do Christian’s mark the two dates – and why have they become earmarked as the day to remove Christmas trees?

Read more: Scotland's Christmas Day babies come into the world

What is Twelfth Night?

You’ve probably heard the carol, but do you know when the 12 days of Christmas take place.

According to many traditions, 25 December is the first day. Some, however, mark the beginning of the 12 days from 26 December. Counting from Christmas Day night or Boxing Day night, this means that either the evening of 5 or 6 January would be Twelfth Night.

Anglican Churches say Twelfth Night is on 5 January but other churches mark it the following the day.

Some say that Twelfth Night is 5 January and the twelfth day is 6 January. "Twelfth Night is Twelfth Day's Eve - we still talk about Christmas Eve as being Christmas Night," explains Professor Nick Groom, of the University of Exeter’s English department, who has researched Christmas traditions.

For what it's worth, Shakespeare thought Christmas ended on Twelfth Night, suggesting he would approve of taking Christmas decorations down then rather than on the Epiphany. His comedy Twelfth Night is named after the final feast day before the end of Christmas.

What is Epiphany?

Twelfth Night is the night before the Epiphany, a Christian feast day. Many people believe this is the day to take down the tinsel.

The Epiphany means different things depending on what church you follow.

It originated in the East where Christians celebrate the birth and baptism of Jesus.

The Western Church began following it in the 4th century and it is the day when the wise men were led by the star to visit baby Jesus, according to the story of the Nativity.

Protestant churches celebrate Epiphany as a season until Ash Wednesday but in Roman Catholicism, it is celebrated as a single day.