So here we are into another new year and memories of the Christmas festivities are still hanging in the air.
I have a friend who, come the day after Boxing Day, takes down all her decorations as she can’t bear all the glittery clutter and the ever-dropping needles from her supposedly non-drop tree. I, on the other hand, hang on to it all until the bitter end, which many believe to be the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th.
So my tree is still up, and although it’s looking sad and droopy now, I dread the sight of the empty space once it is gone. When all the lights and decorations are no longer there, the house seems so bare and I feel a tinge of sadness at the thought of packing them away.
To counteract this, I will leave one set of lights up, and they suddenly become ‘fairy’ lights as opposed to ‘Christmas’ lights, which makes it perfectly legitimate (and saves the hassle of putting them up again next year). I also try to make sure I have something in the diary to look forward to, like a weekend away with friends, or a good night out, to make me feel slightly less deflated.
There is some debate as to whether the decorations should be removed before the end of January 6th, or by midnight on January 5th. There are also differences of opinion as to whether Twelfth Night falls on January 5th or 6th. If you count Christmas Day as day one, then Twelfth Night is the 5th. But in some traditions, they start counting from Boxing Day which means the 12th day of Christmas falls on 6th January.
Having read my dad’s column from 6th January 1979, and then backed it up with my own research, I have found a mind-boggling array of opinions, depending on whether you are Roman Catholic, Anglican, pagan, Dutch, Greek, Roman, Russian, or none of the above, and I can’t come up with a definitive answer.
So I suggest you just do as you wish. After all, the Queen has no time for such nonsense, and apparently keeps her tree up at the Sandringham estate until 6th February. She takes it down to mark the anniversary of the death of her father, King George VI, who passed away in Sandringham on the same date in 1952.
She obviously also pays no attention to one ancient belief that stated it was unlucky to keep any festive greenery in the home after 6th January, although setting fire to your holly and ivy in the garden could bring bad luck. I hope the same doesn’t apply to the tree, because chez Walker, it has become a bit of family tradition to burn ours. It goes up extremely quickly and makes a very impressive, short but intense, bonfire and every time we do it, I wonder how many house fires are caused by tinder-dry trees at this time of year. We do everything we are told, such as buying one treated with flame retardant spray, and we keep it in water throughout the festive season in a bid to preserve its moisture. But by January 6th, it is always absolutely bone dry.
A much more sensible way to dispose of your real tree is to do what North Yorkshire County Council recommends, which is to take it to your local household waste centre where it will be shredded and recycled into compost. It is also possible to recycle artificial trees, although you do have to know what material it is made from, so perhaps ask those working there to advise you.
On the theme of recycling, every year I pack away my festive baubles alongside loads of unused ones that have fallen out of favour. I went through a ‘blue’ phase back in the 1990s when it was the fashion to have just one colour on your tree. I haven’t used them for years, and yet something inside stops me from disposing of them or giving them to charity. This year, though, I’ve seen that the once tacky multicoloured gloriousness of the 1970s has returned to many a tree. So can anyone at the cutting edge of fashion tell me how long I will have to wait before I can get my blue baubles out again?
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