There is an official date to take down a Christmas tree – and it isn't as early as you might think

While not an exact science, there is actually a day dedicated to taking down your Christmas tree each year

Christmas living room, faux Christmas tree with red and god baubles, lit open fireplace, chimney breast, mirror with fairy light garland, cream sofa, board games, pink ottoman, leaded French doors.
(Image credit: Future)

As fun as Christmas can be, it is sometimes a relief to take down the Christmas tree and return your home to normal in the New Year. Often, people look to do this on the 1st of January, but when should you really take your Christmas tree down? And how late is too late to leave your decor in place? 

Although most online searches are around when to put a Christmas tree up, there is just as much confusion about when to pack it away after the holiday. Whether you subscribe to Christmas traditions or not, it turns out there is one date in January, also called Twelfth Night,  that is the sweet spot for returning your home to normal after the holiday.

This, if you're a stickler for tradition, is when you should be taking your Christmas tree down – and where this strange tradition comes from – though there's no judgement from us if yours comes down on the 26th or stays up until Easter.

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When to take your Christmas tree down

Christmas tree decorated with colorful ornaments, fireplace, cream boucle lounge chair, wave artwork

(Image credit: James Merrel)

‘Whether you put your Christmas tree up on the first day of December, or waited for the week before Christmas, tradition dictates that Christmas trees should come down on January 6th, otherwise known as Twelfth Night,’ says Jennifer Ebert, deputy editor (digital) for Homes & Gardens.

Twelfth Night is a Christian festival that marks the night the three kings brought gifts to the baby Jesus. Also called Epiphany, the day is often referred to as the last day of the Christmas festivities and, therefore, the last day to have your decorations on display. Leaving decorations up longer than this, or taking them down before is often considered bad luck for the New Year. 

‘Of course, if you are big into Christmas it is fine to leave your Christmas tree up as long as you like,’ Jennifer says, ‘but it is sometimes nice to refresh your home to prepare for the New Year.’

When to take down a real Christmas tree

A sitting room with a parquet floor, rug and a decorated Christmas tree by the glass garden doors. A three bedroom bungalow converted into a four bedroom barn style family home

(Image credit: POLLY ELTES)

Modern-day celebrations have changed quite a bit since current traditions were first set in stone, meaning there is, of course, some leeway. Most notably, a real Christmas tree should always be taken down before it becomes too big a fire hazard regardless of what day it is. 

‘Cut Christmas trees quickly dry out and become flammable the longer they are left indoors,’ says Homes & Gardens garden editor, Rachel Crow. ‘Even if you have been watering a Christmas tree throughout the season, dried pine needles and sap from old trees are one of leading causes of household fires in the holiday season.

‘Even something as simple as a single malfunctioning tree light can be enough to send your previously perfect tree into a fall of flames,’ she warns. 

How to dispose of a real Christmas tree 

Elegant living room with fireplace dressed with foliage, christmas tree, blue patterned sofa, green ottoman

(Image credit: Paul Massey)

As hard as you might try to keep a Christmas tree alive, all cut trees die eventually and it is important to know how to get rid of them properly. 

‘Once you have removed all of your decorations, arrange for your tree to be collected by local waste services, Rachel Crow suggests. ‘Many sanitation services will class trees as household waste and collect them curbside for free, although it is best to check beforehand in case there are any specific requirements.’

‘If you have the ability to, whether by renting or buying a wood chipper, a Christmas tree can be shredded to be made into mulch for your garden,’ she adds. ‘Simply shred the tree and store it in a dry, cool place for a year before spreading it around your yard.’

You should never burn your tree to dispose of it, Rachel warns. ‘Christmas trees contain pine resin and sap which are highly flammable,’ she says, ‘and while this may make it easy to discard in your backyard, they can release toxic fumes, or get out of control and pose a hazard to your home and surrounding greenery.’ 

Is it bad luck to take down Christmas decorations early? 

In folklore, it is considered bad luck to take Christmas decorations down a day before or a day later than Twelfth Night. The tradition goes so far as to state that any Christmas decorations left up after the Twelfth Night should be left in place for the year to come bringing further bad luck to the house across the New Year.

How long is it acceptable to leave a Christmas tree up? 

While you can technically leave your tree up as long as you like, real Christmas trees should be taken down after around five or six weeks as they dry up and become more of a fire hazard. Fake trees can, of course, stay up as long as you like – or until your friends begin to judge you, that is. 

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.