November 2003 From : Erick
I just found your web site, and saw the comment on when to take down Christmas Decorations, but my question is:
When is the normal time to put UP the decorations and lights?
I agree that 6th January sounds right to take them down.
Webmaster's reply : - My immediate reaction is that you should not put up Christmas decorations until after the 1st of December. But I had no reason for this. So more research.
I remembered that there were "Tables and Rules for the Moveable and Immovable Feasts" in the "Book of Common Prayer" for the Church of England. I located a copy of the book which had been purchased by my father as a gift for my mother at Christmas 1936.
Advent Sunday is the Sunday on which the Church commences the celebration of the pending birth of Jesus on Christmas Day.
The "Rules to know when the Moveable feasts and Holy Days Begin" states that : - "Advent Sunday is always the nearest Sunday to the Feast of St. Andrew, whether before or after." Another table then showed that Advent Sunday could only fall on any day from and including 27 November to and including 3rd December.
A further table "Lessons Proper for Sundays" has a sub-heading "The Sundays of Advent" and under this it lists four Sundays. Thus the period of Advent consists of four Sundays.
The answer to the question
As Christmas is a Christian religious celebration I believe that the answer to the above question should be "Advent Sunday" which we now know is the fourth Sunday before Christmas and will fall on any of the days from 27 November to 3 December.
If these assumptions are correct then this would be a world wide standard, not just Australia.
Having answered that question on when to put up Christmas decorations I was left wondering what is the significants of the 12 days after Christmas which take us to the 6th January which is the day to take down the decorations.
Help arrived in the form of an email
From Janet, Charmhaven, NSW.
Answer to your question about the 12 days of Xmas. I just read in a magazine that they start on 25th December and finish 6th January because that was when the wise men reached the baby Jesus. It took them 12 days to get there!
Plus a telephone conversation with a friend who was educated in a Catholic School in Hong Kong. She stated that January 6th is Epiphany Sunday in the Church calendar. So back to my mother's Prayer Book and I find that the Gospel for Epiphany Sunday is about the arrival of the three wise men in Bethlehem.
Plus the following item was found in the Shoalhaven PC Users Group Inc. newsletter for December 2003.
"In 567 A.D. the Council of Tours declared the Twelve Days of Christmas from Christmas to Epiphany (December 25th to January 6th) festival time and made the birth and baptism of Jesus Christ a single celebration. Christmas Day was not an official Roman holiday until Charlemagne became emperor in 800 A.D."
I now find that The Christian Resource Institute provides authenticated information on The Season of Epiphany. Please do not hesitate to send me an email with your ideas on this subject.
The above seemed to have answered all of the questions on the timing of displaying Christmas decorations and then this email arrived from David : -
It has long been tradition in our family, and many other families I have spoken to over the years that one may put up decorations twelve days before Christmas, ie 12th December, and they are taken down 12 days after Christmas, ie 6th January, or Epiphany. This e-mail has probably thrown another spanner into the works, hasn't it! Cheers.
As one Australian often said :- "Please explain".
Can anyone provide an answer as to why the 12th December is the correct day to put up decorations?
Hey Tom, Just found your website on Australian Christmases and found it very interesting. It'd be beaut if people could send you their photos of decorated homes. Anyway, to the point. I noticed you had a query about the significance of the 12 days of christmas and what partridges and pear trees have to do with it.
Well the song was actually a way of teaching new christians and youngsters about their faith in a time when to be a christian was to be hunted, persecuted and possibly killed. This song was developed as a way of keeping the Word alive when no written copies were allowed to be circulated. Check out this link and this one and the "days" are explained.
December 2006, Tracey wrote from Tamworth.
On the subject of decorating, when I lived in Sydney decorations went up 12 days before Christmas and came down 12 days after. However now that I live in Tamworth and decorate the outside of my house my decorations go up on the 1st December and I generally leave them up for a few days after Christmas but most people seem to pull theirs down on Boxing Day, although my neighbour use to pull hers down on Christmas Day. I suppose it just depends on where you live.
April 2016, I discovered "The Third QI Book of General Ignorance" which was published in England in 2015. It explains several points about Christmas, including when should you take down your Christmas decorations, as follows.
Taking down decorations on Twelfth Night (5 or 6 Jan) is a modern superstition. For many centuries they were kept up until Candlemas Eve, 1st February. Candlemas celebrates Mary and Joseph taking the baby Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem and presenting him to the Lord. According to St Luke’s gospel they had to sacrifice two pigeons to do so.
Early Christmas decorations consisted mainly of greenery which kept the house looking cheerful even when the weather outside was miserable. Some people clung to older, pre-Christian beliefs about these - namely that they contained woodland spirits, who, if you left the decorations up, would cause mischief in your house. Careful householders took them down and burned them just to be sure.
In North America Candlemas is celebrated as Groundhog Day. Groundhogs are large rodents related to squirrels and, according to folklore, if it’s cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, spring will come early. If it’s sunny the winter weather will persist for six more weeks.
Of course, the groundhog has no interest in weather forecasting: he’s looking for a mate. Recent statistics, released by the USA’s National Climatic Data Center, ‘show no predictive skill for the groundhog’. Groundhog Day comes from an older medieval European tradition of the Candlemas Bear, where people watched for a hibernating bear as it awoke to get a similar weather prediction. The rarity of bears in France meant that this duty eventually had to be taken over by a man in a bear costume. A similar tradition in Germany is called Dachstagth (Badger Day), and in Ireland they use a hedgehog.
Until the seventeenth century ‘Christmas’ lasted almost three months, from the Feast of St Martin on 11 November to Candlemas on 2 February. Although today it doesn't officially begin until Advent (the fourth Sunday before Christmas), the shops make it seem as if it's starting earlier and earlier- a process known as ‘Christmas Creep'. This is getting faster, and it's not just retailers. Analysis of Internet searches in 2007 found people started looking for ‘Santa Claus', 'elf' and 'presents' on 11 November. By 2013 they started on 25 August.