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
‘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
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
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 is a junior writer for Homes & Gardens having joined Future plc as a new graduate in 2022 after achieving a 1st class degree in Literature at university. She first became interested in design as a child after spending her summers helping her parents redecorate her childhood home. As a long-time reader of Future’s homes titles, Chiana is constantly finding new inspiration at work as she focuses on emerging trends, how-to’s, and news pieces.
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