Don't Take Down Your Christmas Tree Until January 6—Here's Why

If you've been looking for a reason to keep your Christmas decorations up a bit longer, this is it.

When it comes to holiday decorations, there are two kinds of people: Those who take down their Christmas trees on December 26, and those who aren't quite ready for the season to be over. And while taking down the Christmas tree is usually a bit less fun than putting it up, there's actually another good reason many people wait to do it. So, if you've been looking for an excuse to keep listening to Christmas music and admiring your yuletide decor (like this Better Homes & Gardens Forest and Flowers Scented Ceramic Tree Candle, $13, Walmart) for a few more weeks, you're in luck: Tradition says you should be celebrating the Christmas season (and leaving your decorated tree up) all the way through January 6.

You're probably familiar with the song about the 12 days of Christmas—but you may not have known that the 12 days don't actually start until Christmas Day, which means there are almost two full weeks of celebrating left to do after Santa Claus arrives. According to Christian tradition, January 6 marks the day the three kings actually arrived in Bethlehem after Jesus was born, so this day signals the official end of the Christmas celebrations.

A Christmas tree laying outside next to a trash can with holiday wrapping spilling out of it
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This day is called The Feast of Epiphany, The Twelfth Night, or Three Kings Day, and in some parts of the world, it signifies a celebration that's just as big as the one on Christmas Day. And while we'll welcome any excuse to leave the red and gold ornaments and multicolor strand lights up a little longer, tradition says it's actually unlucky to take your tree down before this date. So if you're in favor of leaving the decor up as long as possible, use this excuse when your family asks why the tree is still up past New Year's.

So, now you know how long to leave the Christmas tree up. When you finally do take down the tree, get the garbage can (try this Better Homes & Gardens Stainless Steel Touchless Trash Can, $70, Walmart) ready to hold debris, but you don't have to leave the tree on the curb; you can actually recycle live Christmas trees! Find a recycling program near you, or look for a service that will chip your tree into mulch for your garden.

While the Christmas festivities technically end on Epiphany, the holidays aren't over just yet. The day also marks the official start of the Mardi Gras season, so it's tradition to serve King Cake on January 6. The tradition of Three Kings Day is actually where the name "king cake" comes from—and why there's a tiny plastic baby hidden inside.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it bad luck to take your Christmas tree down before the end of the year?

    Taking down your Christmas tree before the twelfth day of Christmas or Epiphany (either January 5 or 6) is thought to be bad luck by many people. This is because, in days past, people believed that the tree spirits (who sought shelter in the festive greenery used to decorate our homes) needed to be released back into the wild, or else the crops and greenery would not grow in the coming year. That said, others believe that Christmas trees must be taken down before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, or else you’ll be stuck carrying your baggage from last year into the new one.

  • How long should you leave your Christmas tree up?

    Some people believe it's bad luck to take your Christmas tree down before January 6, so many leave their trees up until January 6 or later. Beyond that, you should take your tree down once it stops taking water, the needles turn brown and begin to fall off in large numbers, and/or the branches droop so much that they cannot support your ornaments.

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