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When to Take Down Your Christmas Tree, According to Tradition

The end of the holiday season means a fridge packed full of Christmas dinner leftovers and the beginning of operation cleanup time. Part of the post-holiday tidying up process will inevitably involve putting away your Christmas lights, tackling that monstrous stack of dirty dishes in the sink, and, of course, figuring out when to take down the Christmas tree.

For some reason, determining the best time to drag your spruce out to the curb (or stick your artificial tree back in the garage) tends to be a hot-button topic year after year. It’s right on up there with the real tree or artificial tree debate — some people just have really strong feelings about it.

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So, when should you take down your Christmas tree?

If you find yourself stumped over this very question (or continually debating about this with your spouse at Christmas dinner), perhaps consider letting tradition be your guide. Dating back to the fourth century, many Christians have marked the end of the Christmas season on the Twelfth Night (or 12 nights after Christmas) — an evening also known as the Eve of the Epiphany.

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The Epiphany marks the day the Three Kings (or Wise Men) visited baby Jesus, and is either celebrated on January 5 or January 6 (depending on whether you count Day One as Christmas or not). Although Christian groups reportedly disagree over which date is the correct one, tradition dictates that the Twelfth Night is the best time to take down your festive decorations — including your tree. It’s believed that waiting too long after the Twelfth Night will bring bad luck.

Of course, all of this to say that you should really take down your Christmas tree when it’s the most convenient time for you and your family. (For example, Dolly Parton leaves her tree up until after her birthday, on January 19!) Whether that’s the day after Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or whenever you can get to it, there’s really no true “correct” answer. After all, you worked really hard hanging up all those ornaments — you should enjoy it for as long as you want.

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