Wednesday, January 03, 2007

12th Night?

So when is Twelth Night? When is first day, for that matter? Up until now, my Christmas decorations have gone up on around 20th Dec, and I've counted Christmas Day as day 1, making 12th Night the 5th Jan - this Friday. I'd take them down then.

But I'm not sure this feels right now, or ever did.

It increasingly feels to me like winter feasting time and new year at the solstice instead. This is instinctively the 'start of Christmas' for me, which is probably why my decorations go up when they do - I'm subconsciously aiming for the 21st.

So if the 21st is '1st day', this would put 12th Night on 2nd Jan - yesterday! And that is indeed when I wanted to take them down. I looked at the tree and thought: you have to go. But it didn't, it stayed. Because although I aspire to live by instinct, I'm a sucker for tradition - if only I could work out what it actually is.

Well, as all sensible bloggers are probably sleeping ATM I'll google it.

OK, The Gray Monk reckons 12th Night falls on Epiphany on the 6th, which has made sense to me in previous years.

Wikipedia puts it on the 5th too, and explains the confusion between the 5th/6th as follows: "In some traditions it is taken to mean the evening of the Twelfth Day itself, the sixth of January. This apparent difference has arisen probably due to the old custom of treating sunset as the beginning of the following day. Therefore Twelfth Night would have been considered as occurring on the twelfth day, though in present day custom it is the previous day." Hmmm... that doesn't make much sense to me. Never mind.

Although one of the following paragraphs: "In Tudor England, the Twelfth Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve — which some now celebrate as Halloween. A King or Lord of Misrule would be appointed to run the Christmas festivities, and the Twelfth Night was the end of his period of rule. The common theme was that the normal order of things was reversed. This Lord of Misrule tradition can be traced back to pre-Christian European festivals such as the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia. The Winter Solstice (December 21st) marks the 1st day of many Pagan Winter Festivals. The 12 nights following and including the solstice represent the 12 zodiac signs of the year - and the 12th Night (New Years Day) is a culmination and celebration of the Winter Festivals" seems to indicate New Years Day is also an option.

Tradition is evidently a fickle thing. (Though I am attracted to the idea of a Lord of Misrule feast - I keep saying I'll hold one one year!)

Hmmm this page equates it with the Roman festival of Saturnalia, which was their winter solstice, which took place on 17th December! Gah.

OK, let's take a consensus: when does Christmas (or whatever you call your midwinter celebration) end for you, please, dear readers? Do you do anything special to finish it off, as it were? Or just quietly put the decorations back in their boxes? And is there any reason why you do it the way you do?

13 Comments:

Anonymous lucy B said...

hello Gill,

We try and leave our tree inside for the least time possible, cos it's a growing one and I always worry it won't be happy inside for long. So we kind of vaguely put it up the weekend before Xmas, and meant to take it down as soon as we've decided that New Year's has been celebrated sufficiently, but didn't get round to it yesterday, so it'll be today. We try and make packing the decorations away a bit of an occassion, and we usually have a couple of very small presents on the tree which get 'discovered' as we take it down ... only this year they all got discovered the other day when M went poking! I'll be watching these comments with interest though as I'd like to be a bit more 'ritual' about the dates. We think of ourselves as humanists though, so we are trying to make our own family traditions.

The girls enjoyed the New Year's Log thing we did on New Year's day (having forgotten to do it at Xmas!), so I'm wondering if we could tie this in somehow ... maybe hanging the wishes on the tree when we decorate it, and then attaching them to the log on New Year's day, undecorating the tree as we go, and then it goes back outside after then. We do have lights up on the wall, so they could be up longer than the tree, perhaps ... sorry, thinking aloud!

8:42 am, January 03, 2007  
Anonymous alison young said...

instinct tells me the 2nd is the right day.new year=fresh new start and the decorations always look so jaded after then.

8:58 am, January 03, 2007  
Blogger merry said...

Normally take it down when Max goes back to work, because it is normally a pretend one (the pretend one did indeed come down on monday night) but as we also had a real one this year it is still up and will be up till the weekend, when we'll get round to taking it down.

But last night, i looked at it and thought "how odd to have a tree in ones lounge!" which i think must mean the moment has passed and it really should have gone!

9:32 am, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Sue said...

5th Jan for me. I got confused about whether Twelfth Night was 5th or 6th too, but we reckon if the decorations should be away BY Twelfth Night, then the 5th is a good day to aim for. We put ours up sometime between 14th and 21st Dec, usually, depending when we remember/feel like it/ all happen to be in for an evening.

As for what we do... we just take everything down, look through the cards again, and pack it all away (hopefully.. sometimes the boxes have lain around for days...)

Cyprus makes quite a big thing of Epiphany with parades along the sea-front, and a strange custom of throwing a large and ornate cross into the sea for young men to dive for. The one who finds it supposedly has good luck. But they attach a rope to it in case nobody does find it!

9:57 am, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Baz said...

Well, mine went down yesterday both at home and in the office.

I agree with Alison here, New Years day is the last day of blatant commercial "festivities"

1:02 pm, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Rosie said...

Important issues, indeed, so important I will have to consult my oracles "All Year round" and maybe "Stations of the Sun".
I think 12th night is on the 5th and Epiphany is the 6th. But I usually start on the 21st Dec, being solstice, and this *feels* right. If the tree was live I think I would put it out now, (O, no, one of them is!). I have the urge to pull down the decos now, although there aren't many, I feel the need to clear the cobwebs, now I can seee them! But I like to leave something up. There's nothing wrong with winter decorations, or any time of year decorations, for that matter! Last year I left the fairy lights up until they blew, as it was a bit dismal without them.
Ok, New year: I celebrate a lot of these things for educational reasons, ie, how can children grasp the concept of what a year is, or other measurements of time, if you don't mark it out in some way? But NYE seems to be about calendars and clocks and measured time, as opposed to solstice being about Nature and the seasons. Both are important to learn and what better way? No, I dont sit down and teach it like a lesson- I just do certain stuff, like the candle boats we only do on NYE/NYD so they can remember the last time and its a year ago, but its about more than that: dreaming your past and future.
Sorry, this is really a *blog post* and I still havent consulted my oracle yet! But I'll leave it here, cos you did ask!

2:54 pm, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Nic said...

Well I consider 12th night to be epiphany or 6th January too, but that's because it's my birthday and I was always told I was born on the 12th night (I was due on Christmas Day!). So we've always taken decorations down sometime between 1st and 5th of Jan because 6th is a whole different celebration. My parents' wedding anniversary is Jan 1st so their's used to come down even earlier to make way for anniversary cards.
We put our decorations up early - usually the first or second weekend in December so I'm always keen to see them down again as soon as possible after. This year they came down on Jan 1st.

3:33 pm, January 03, 2007  
Blogger IndigoShirl said...

Hi Gill

My Christmas tree and decs come down on the 1st January every year.

For me its an instinctive thing, I can't bear the thought of carrying on last year's celebration into the New Year. Out with the old and in with the new type thing.

5:20 pm, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Em said...

Ours came down today. I also have a new year birthday (2nd Jan) and I think once I've had that it just feels like the tree needs to come down. I also like it to go up as late as possible, as otherwise I just get sick of seeing them more than anything. I do agree about anytime of year house decorations though, and there are often all sorts of thigns hanging around our house just because we felt like it :)

5:42 pm, January 03, 2007  
Blogger HelenHaricot said...

well, i am an early putter upper and a late taker downer. so we go up usually 2nd weekend in de, and down weekend after new year - roughly 12th night

12:30 am, January 04, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks all. Happy birthday to Nic and Em!

Our tree is coming down today I think, although the girls are both very sad about it.

Personally I'm looking foward to getting some space back in the kitchen! It's currently 25% tree LOL

11:24 am, January 04, 2007  
Anonymous Chris F said...

Well, we aim to have it down around 5/6th - most years it stays up even longer as we can't be bothered to take it all down, and i like the twinkly lights :-) I reckon it's made it to Feb before now :-)

1:31 am, January 05, 2007  
Blogger mamadillo said...

One year I took the previous year's Christmas cards off to make space for the new ones *cough*

This year the tree's been taken away by the scouts this morning (a living one in a pot would be good but then what happens to it afterwards? You either re-pot every year and end up with a tree that you can't get in your house or you don't re-pot and it gets stunted like a bonsai... Plus toddler + cat + dirt = no fun for me.) and the decs are in a heap in the corner of the living room waiting for someone to be compos mentis enough to sort it out without other 'help' which might be forever at the rate we're going... Yesterday afternoon would have been a good time, dd4 was asleep and everyone else but me went out, woohoo! but I felt a pressing need to play Viva Pinata for 2&1/2hrs instead.

10:09 am, January 13, 2007  

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