We couldn’t fit everything in to our Introduction to Christmas History and Traditions at the beginning of December. So, now we got to Boxing Day – think of this blog entry as a sneaky turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich. A tasty follow up to the main event.
Here we look at the 12 days of Christmas, Twelfth night and, most importantly, when it’s safe to take the decorations down…
The Twelve Days of Christmas.
Contrary to what most of us think, Christmas – or more precisely Christmastide – actually begins on Christmas day. The original Christian festival celebrates the birth of Christ and the various events in the story of the nativity – familiar to every Church of England Primary school child.
Interestingly in some cultures – most notably Latin America – Christmas Day is not the conventional time for sharing gifts – some string it out throughout the full 12 day period, whilst others leave it to the Feast of the Epiphany on Twelfth night.
Of course, since the inception of the App store in 2008, The Twelve Days of Christmas has become known to millions as a digital giveaway by Apple Inc.
Tweflth night is the eve of the epiphany – the incarnation of God as Jesus. You’d think pinning down that date on this one would be simple – the twelfth night after Christmas day. That makes it, numerically, the evening of the 5th of January. But back in Catholic and Hebrew tradition, it was 4th January – down to a liturgical practice of the new day beginning at sunset, rather than midnight.
So, with that cleared up – why is Twelfth Night the marker for taking the Christmas decorations down? And should it be before or after that date that I pack them away?
Well, officially, Christmas isn’t over until that big Epiphany shindig on 5th Jan. So 6th is a great target date to take them down. Of course, there are plenty of superstitions out there that say it’s bad luck to take them down before, or after, so on and so forth… We say ignore them.
Back in our early December blog on Crimbo decs, we explained how tinsel was designed to look like icicles. In a slightly different take in Ukranian folklore, it in fact represents spiders webs. The story goes that a poor woman could not afford to decorate her tree. She went to bed and when she woke a christmas spirited spider had spun a supremely intricate web, which the dew had dropped on. The natural decoration surpassed anything artificial and Ukranians have taken the spiders web full circle (we know, we know) and now include a sparkly artificial spiders web on their Christmas Trees.