"We are what we believe we are."
C.S. Lewis

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Twelfth Night

Yesterday marked Twelfth Night and the traditional day to remove Christmas decorations and greenery.  I've never observed this tradition before, yesterday just happened to be the day we took down our tree.

I have to admit I've been a bit confused about the concept of Twelfth Night, as I've heard that it's both January 5th AND the 6th.  Well, it can't be both obviously, and it seems it is a matter of interpretation, is it twelve days after Christmas Day or does the count begin on the 26th?  (The Church of England states that Twelfth Night is the 5th of January.)

I was also curious about the notion of removing the greenery on Twelfth Night in order to avoid bad luck, what could be the rationale possibly be with this notion?  Apparently it originated in the nineteenth century, when the idea that the "tree spirits" living in the holly and ivy needed to be freed before the start of Epiphany (which is today, the 6th of January).  What would happen if they were not freed?  My guess was they'd lurk around the house and cause mischief?
No, the idea was that it would be a curse on the new season of agriculture, which would compromise crops and therefore food supplies.

As usual I was a bit sad to take down the decorations, but of course it's also satisfying to sweep up the needles of the Christmas tree and store away all of the festive accessories to the holidays.
The house always seems bigger and cleaner once that's done!
Have you ever observed this Twelfth Night tradition of removing your tree?  Have you heard of any other superstitions which exist around this day?
xoxDani

15 comments:

  1. I have heard that in more general terms that taking the tree down early evicting the spirits or fairies in your tree before Twelfth Night will make them angry and cause them to bring bad luck for the year. I use this argument with my husband every year when he wants to take down the tree on New Years Day, he doesn't believe me :-)

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    1. TeriLynn good one, I would use that argument too! ;) xx

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  2. This explains why my grandmother was adamant that the tree comes down on January 5. I didn't know the details, only her insistence that it was the only day it could be done. My tree is still standing and likely won't come down until tomorrow. I certainly hope this doesn't mean I'll have cranky fairies around the house all year :)

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    1. SD, that's interesting, and funny how superstitious our grandmothers were! I love sourcing out the reasons for these stories, it's usually something benign or not relevant to modern times. I think you'll be good, no cranky fairies or failed crops for you ;) xx

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  3. I'm a get 'er down on the 26th girl. But I do love traditions so 12th night is lovely! Xx

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    1. Jen I used to be this way too, one thing that changed my attitude this year was, well our tree came in the house later so it wasn't shedding, and we bought a smaller tree which didn't take up too much space. Traditions are good :) xx

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  4. Twelfth Night is the eve of the Epiphany and marks the end of Christmas. It's usually marked with a special cake and a celebration with special carols. Where I live, we do just that.

    Traditionally people took down decorations the day before or the day after Twelfth Night. Long ago there was a belief that the tree spirits in the greenery had to be released or they'd inhibit crop and vegetation growth for the year. So, if you missed getting your decorations down, you were supposed to keep them up all year.

    The early church didn't have a celebration for Christ's birth, but it had a celebration for the Epiphany. In colonial Virginia, Twelfth Night was a bigger celebration than Christmas.

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    1. Janet, wow thanks for this information! So interesting, especially the part about colonial Virginia. Twelfth Night sounds lovely where you live, a cake and carols, what a fitting end to the Christmas season. Thank you Janet! xx

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  6. Someone once told me that their tree stayed up until January 6, the Epiphany or Little Christmas. Our decorations came down last week but the tree stayed up until this morning when we took it out. Hope that's enough to satisfy the spirits. I certainly feel better to vacuum up the needles and have everything put back in place. The house looks tidy and ready for the new year.

    slf

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    1. SLF I always like the tidy look of the house after taking out the Christmas tree, it does seem new and ready for another year! xx

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  7. The East End of Long Island used to be populated by farmers - some remain, and there are a few elderly ladies who are “world-famous in Suffolk County” for keeping their trees and decorations up all year, year after year. Others un-decorate at the end of August.

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    1. Fred, all year, year after year? Is this to ensure their crops? I think they've taken the superstition very, very far! ;) Thanks Fred xx

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  8. I always take down my tree on Epiphany but my mother insists on January 5. All I have to say is that although the greenery has disappeared, I still need to pack away the 232 ornaments I removed from the boughs. Not looking forward to that!

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  9. Hello! We don't really decorate the house or have a tree (wild cat & big clumsy dog), but we have a big olive-wood Nativity set that's up until Candlemas ( catholic tradition). The Nativity set takes the place of our TV during the Christmas season and my hairy kids can't reach it. Chocolate

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