When Does Christmas End?

by Cie McCullough Buschle on January 6, 2011

in Arts and Culture

For most American schoolchildren, Christmas ends on the first day of school in the New Year. For adults, it is the day the tree is taken down, the ornaments are put away, the stockings are un-hung. For retail stores, it’s December 26th; that’s the day to clear out all the unsold Holiday merchandise so there is room for the Valentine and Easter candy.

We all have our own way of celebrating Christmas; our own ways of beginning and ending the Holidays according to our own family’s traditions.

In the time of the Renaissance the word ‘Yuletide’ was used to describe the twelve days after the more somber religious observance of Christmas. In fact the word Yuletide means ‘the twelve day festival of Yule’, and so if the Yuletide started on Christmas it ended on January 5th. That would officially make the Twelve Days of Christmas from December 25th to January 5th, inclusive.

Twelfth-night (The King Drinks) by David Teniers the Younger

Twelfth-night (The King Drinks) by David Teniers the Younger

During medieval England the Yuletide, or Twelve Days of Christmas, was part of a much longer festival that began back on All Hallow’s Eve. Keep that in mind the next time Christmas decorations start appearing for sale right after Halloween. The very last day of this two month festival was known as Twelfth Night. When Twelfth Night came there was partying and merry making like no other day of the entire year. Feasting, drinking, and the crowning of the Lord of Misrule, a peasant who would rule over the King for one night only. The world turns upside down, the low become high and the high become low, at least until midnight.

When Christmas Ends

When Christmas Ends

Twelfth Night is also associated with the Feast of the Epiphany, the day many Christians consider to be the day the three Magi presented their gifts to the child Jesus. Many places end the Christmas season just to start the Carnival season, which ends on Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, or the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Remember that the next time you see Easter candy replacing all the Christmas decorations. But most recently Twelfth Night has been considered the day by when all Christmas decorations must be taken down. It is bad luck to keep them up any longer.

| Cie McCullough Buschle lives with her dog Einstein and a cat named Burton Guster. She is a lifelong traveler and enjoys researching history through holidays, toys, and everyday objects. Cie is a sculptor and co-owns The Creative Chameleon, a place where kids and adults can create, paint, celebrate, and just have a lot of fun. Sometimes you can find her time traveling back to the Middle Ages as part of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Lissa January 6, 2011 at 11:10 am

Uh- oh- that means today’s the day? I’d better get a move on.

Sandra Foyt January 6, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Maybe that explains our bad luck in previous years, because we never take down the tree until late in January.

Cie McCullough Buschle January 6, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Mine definitely won’t get down before next weekend!

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