Christmas tree
It is time to take our Christmas trees down – or leave them up another year IStock

Christmas and the new year seem like a distant memory, particularly for the majority of us who are now back at work after the festive break – and it is now time to take our festive decorations down.

Since the Victorian era, it has been tradition to remove Christmas trees, tinsel and lights from our homes on the Twelfth Night, which either falls on the 5 or 6 January.

The Twelfth Night is a festival marked by some Christians which signifies the coming of the Epiphany, another religious festival. In Western Church traditions, the Twelfth Night marks the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas, which begin on Christmas Day on 25 December.

If you remove your decorations a day sooner or later than the Twelfth Night, it is considered bad luck – so if you don't take your tree down, tradition dictates it is best to leave it up all year.

Why is it called Twelfth Night?

This is because Christmas was traditionally a 12-day celebration which began on 25 December. Twelfth Night falls on 5 January and Epiphany on 6 January, but some people class the latter as Twelfth Night because it is the 12th day after Christmas.

It is believed to be bad luck to leave Christmas decorations up past this date because people used to believe spirits lived in the festival greenery used to decorate homes, including trees, holly and ivy. When the Christmas period finished, it was believed that these spirits needed to be released back outside.

What is the Epiphany?

Thousands of people around the world mark the Epiphany, otherwise known as Three Kings Day, the Feast of the Epiphany, or Twelfth Day, on 6 January. In Western Christianity, it marks the end of Christmas, when Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist and the Three Kings came to visit bearing gifts.

Although various cultural and Christian denominations practice different customs, the Feast of the Epiphany is a Christian celebration of the revelation of the birth of Jesus to the wider world. Some Eastern Christians celebrate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, as reflected in the focus on water in several customs.