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The evergreen debate about when to take down your Christmas tree

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When is the right time to take down the Christmas tree? Photo: Getty
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The presents have been opened, the wrapping paper binned, the food eaten and booze drunk.

With the business end of Christmas done, the question is: When is the right time to pack up the Christmas tree and all its decorations?

Is there a specific date to take it all down? Surely, it doesn’t matter if we leave it all up until mid-January? What about late January?

Every family embraces different traditions when it comes to putting up the tree and taking it down. Some trees appear in lounge rooms as early as mid-November, while some of us procrastinate to extremes and leave it up into January, or even February.

There is a shelf life for the real, live Christmas tree in the Australian summer.

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Live Christmas trees don’t last long in the Australian summer. Photo: Getty

But traditionally, there’s a generally accepted Christmas-tree deadline between January 5 and 6, or 12 days after Christmas Day.

Once called Twelfth Night, the people of the Victorian era marked January 5 as the official end of Christmas celebrations with cake, Christmas carols, dancing and chalking the door with a cross to bless the house.

The merriment in anticipation of the Epiphany on January 6 recognises when the Three Kings came bearing gifts for Christ, guided by a star, represented in modern times by our use of fairy lights at Christmas.

Still, there’s a lot of variation in what is considered the ‘proper’ time to get rid of Christmas trees, which finds its origin in the pagan rituals and traditions of the forest-dwelling ancient Germanic people.

In modern Germany, the Christmas tree and decorations are most commonly taken down on January 6, or Three Kings Day, when the children are often allowed to raid the tree for the sweets and treats used as decorations.

Watch TND’s entertaining video about the origins of the Christmas tree

In Australia, the ‘right’ time to pack up the tree is often considered to be sooner than the traditional end of Christmas.

Australian School of Etiquette director Zarife Hardy told The New Daily she believes the Christmas tree should go up on December 1 and should come down on December 30 or 31.

Keeping the fresh or plastic tree any longer was not appropriate, she said, while also admitting she felt “huge sadness” when she witnessed live Christmas trees dumped on the footpaths of New York City.

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Christmas trees discarded on the streets of New York City. Photo: Getty

“We’re exhausted at this time of year and the last thing you want to do is pull it down, and it’s much more exciting putting it up, but it’s closure,” Ms Hardy said.

“You’ve got to wrap up that time of year, finish, complete it and start the new year with no Christmas decorations around.”

And when it comes to commercial interests, Christmas trees and decorations go up early and come down early to provide the right backdrop for more sales and bigger spending.

Christmas decorations in public locations come down relatively early. Photo: Getty

Justin Mason, of Countdown Merchandise & Sales, who has been in the business of putting up and taking down commercial Christmas decorations for 25 years, told The New Daily some shopping centres remove trees and ornaments as early as the night of Christmas Day or on Boxing Day.

“Some decorations don’t get pulled out until January 6, but most want Santa to be cleared off the floor as soon as possible,” Mr Mason said.

“They need the floor space for the sales or renting out the space. Santa’s got to go back to the North Pole.”

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