Most people know that, where Christmas is concerned, the festive tree and all decorations should be taken down either on or before 12th night or, according to superstition, you could be in for some bad luck. But, the big question is, when exactly is that day?
Opinions are divided between those who start counting the 12 on Christmas Day itself and those who say it is 12 days after Christmas. That means it was either last night January 5 or tonight January 6.
The supporters of the 5th tend to say that as today is the Feast of Epiphany, the decorations should have been removed last night while proponents of the 6th say that, as Epiphany is the day that the Three Kings or wise men arrived with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, that should be 12th night.
There does not seem to be any definitive answer. Even churches differ as to when they choose to remove their trees and decorations. Those that choose to keep them until the 6th can then use their cribs to show the arrival of the Three Kings. All reasonably-sized cribs seem to have the Kings as characters, so that would lead us all to believe they should be used right up to the 6th. If not, why include those characters at all?
Of course this is all a matter of both Christianity and superstition, neither of which affects me. This is because, while I do follow a religious faith, it is not Christianity nor any other that is popularly regarded as a mainstream religion for that matter, and I do not think of myself as being superstitious.
For me, 12th night is tonight 6th January, because that is the way it always has been in my family. When I was a child, the tree and decorations were always taken down on the 6th. That date is not, for me, guided by religion or superstition, it is just a matter of tradition.
Whether that tradition is itself founded on my parents’ Christian beliefs, or their susceptibility to superstition, is another matter entirely. In any event, family tradition dictates that our Yule tree and decorations will always be removed on January 6.