The Tudor Society

Christmas Decorations, Twelfth Night and Candlemas

christmas decorationsAre you too busy to take your Christmas decorations down? Are people telling you it's unlucky to have your decorations up after Twelfth night?

Well, I have the perfect solution for you. You can leave them up until Candlemas Eve (1st February) and tell everyone that you're following an age-old tradition.

As I have mentioned before, it was traditional in Medieval and Tudor times for homes to be decorated with greenery, such as laurel, holly, ivy and rosemary, at Christmas time but there was no rush to take it down on Twelfth Night, instead it was left decorating the house until Candlemas Eve. 17th century poet Robert Herrick wrote in his poem "Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve":

"Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe ;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress'd the Christmas Hall :
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind :
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected, there (maids, trust to me)
So many goblins you shall see."

Of course, you now need to remember to take them down on 1st February otherwise you'll have those goblins to contend with!

Note: Candlemas, which is celebrated on 2nd February, is also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. It commemorates the day on which the Virgin Mary would have been purified after childbirth and would have presented her son at the temple in Jerusalem. It was also the day on which Church candles were blessed.

There are 18 comments Go To Comment

  1. D

    I took most of our decs down at the weekend, but left the garland over the fire-place until today. I have always found this 12th night thing very confusing…me and hubby decided to leave all our gifts until 12th night to open, but 12th night, according to some, was last night, today is the 12th day and Christmas finishes at sun-down. Am I right in thinking this came from medieval times when a day is measured by sun up till sun down? Very confusing, lol.
    Anyway we opened them last night and I got some smashing books, bet you can’t guess what about, lol.!! and period drama DVD’s 🙂
    Some folk up here leave their decs up until 11th January, this is usually associated with what was a small fishing town in the N.E. Scotland called Burghead. Here they celebrate The Burning Of The Clavie (carrying a burning barrel on your back a round the streets!!)…this dates back to the 1750’s and was to do with the reformation of the Julian Calendar, and the new Gregorian one was introduced, so instead of rioting against it like most folk did, those in Burghead decided to have the best of both worlds and celebrate New Year twice, 🙂 we do love our new Year up here!!
    I won’t go into the details of The Burning of the Clavie, but if you are interested to know what it entails, type it in and you will get lots of info on it. I only live 10 miles from Burghead, and I have a sister who lives there so we have seen it plenty of times, to be honest I’m surprised they are still allowed to do it, health and safety laws as they are now-a-days…but there you go. Quite a spectacle to see, and if you are given a piece of whats left of the ‘Clavie’, it is meant to bring you luck all year round, my sister was given a bit last year.
    So, my decs are down, the house looks dull and bare, so out come more candles to light… what I really would like now is a BIG dollop of thick snow to make outside all bright, clean and sparkly so we can’t get into town (got loads of food stashed) and all I have to do after the boring housework thing, and cooking which I quite like, is sit and read all those lovely books I got from Santa, or watch my DVD’s…for a week at least!!

    1. L

      Hello Dawn, I bet you didn’t think anyone would be interested but I must say I was! Googled burning the clavie and it looks amazing! I like to learn something new! You are so lucky to live in a beautiful place with lots of traditions and history! Also the picture you’ve painted of sitting reading whilst it snows outside sounds wonderful!

      1. D

        Hi Lindsey, glad you liked finding out about the ‘Clavie’…it is a strange thing to see. As for the picture I painted, well I can dream, lol, the reality will be mainly as it was today, icy cold wind, horrid drizzly rain, and a dark sky..but inside was still cosy, have got 2 log burners….

        1. E

          They do something similar in Devon , racing with burning tar barrels. I have forgotten exactly where , but it’s south Devon

          1. E

            Ottery st Mary!

  2. A

    Epiphany has always been my take down day, which is 6 January. But since I always have a fresh tree I never put it up until the week of Christmas so that it stays fresh until it comes down. Other decor such as mantle and lighting goes up the weekend after Thanksgiving.

    1. D

      I have a real tree too Ann and put it up last and is down 1st., usually up a few days Xmas like yourself, other decs start to go up 1st Dec.
      Hope you had a good one.

  3. G

    Hi just to say in Ireland today is known as Nollaig Na Mban which means Women’s Christmas or also known as Little Christmas by others. Traditionally it is a chance for the Women to enjoy some time together after all the extra work of the season.

    1. C - Post Author

      I like the idea of a day for the women, how wonderful!

      1. D

        Me too!! after all it’s us girls that usually sees to it all, well in this house it is…lol. so that sounds a cracking idea to adopt.

  4. R

    My Welsh mother, Eluned Burbeck, quoted this little saying:

    “If the holly’s not down by Candlemas Day
    The devil will dance on every spray”.

    If you look up Candlemas, you will see other poems referring to the removal of Christmas decorations on Candlemas Eve, which is Feb 1st, Feb 2nd being Candlemas Day. There are superstitions about death if Christmas greenery and decorations are not removed by this date, or if you hear funeral bells tolling on Candlemas Day.

    1. M

      A lovely saying and good motivation for cleaning up after the holiday. One question, though, how do you pronounce your mother’s name? I’ve not heard anyone say it and found several pronunciations online. It’s a lovely name!

      1. R

        It sounds much prettier than it.looks! Phonetically it is ” El-lin-id ” . I gave my daughter that name as her second name and she hates it !!

  5. J

    I removed decorations and christmas tree on 3rd feb. Just after that I saw serious turmoil of bad luck on me, my girl cheated, car broke, lost friends and sacked at work. All in together. What should I do know. Any help ASAP will be appreciated, every day counts.

  6. M

    February 3rd is the Feast Day of St. Blaise. The candles that were blessed during Candlemas are used for the blessing of throats on his feast day. It is said that a man was choking on a fishbone and St. Blaine took two such candles, crossed them one over the other, held them on the afflicted man’s throat and cured him.

  7. S

    Some churches take down other decorations but leave Crib until Candlemass. Southwell Minster, in Nottinghamshire keep their Crib up.

    1. C - Post Author

      Oh how wonderful!

  8. C

    I took my decorations down the 10th, but put my Xmas wreath up in the window with lights around, looks so pretty. People making comments,
    Jesus light of the world, giving us joy & cheer us on these dark nights.
    Will come down Feb 2nd, or shall I leave them ?

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Christmas Decorations, Twelfth Night and Candlemas