Have you noticed some of your neighbours have been a little slow taking down their Christmas decorations this year?
In the middle of a new lockdown, many people have decided to keep the bright lights up for longer than usual to bring a little extra cheer during these dark winter months.
But according to English Heritage, they are actually following in the footsteps of their medieval ancestors, who would leave festive adornments until Candlemas – 2nd February.
Falling exactly 40 days after Christmas, Candlemas – the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary – was observed as the official end of Christmas in medieval England.
The date itself was a great feast day and is so called because candles to be used in churches in the coming year would be blessed on that day. There were also candlelit processions in honour of the feast.
Evidence that decorations were kept up until the evening before Candlemas is well documented, with Christmas cribs in many churches until Candlemas, and their removal at this time is described in an early 17th-century poem by Robert Herrick.
Dr Michael Carter, English Heritage’s senior properties historian, said: “In the Middle Ages, houses would be decorated with greenery for the Christmas season on Christmas Eve day.
“The feast of Christmas started at around 4pm on Christmas Eve and continued until the Epiphany on 6th January. But the Christmas season actually continues through to Candlemas on 2nd February so there’s no real reason why you should take your decorations down earlier.
“The tradition that it is bad luck to keep decorations up after Twelfth Night and the Epiphany is a modern invention, although it may derive from the medieval notion that decorations left up after Candlemas Eve would become possessed by goblins!”
He added that “we certainly deserve to keep the Christmas cheer going a little longer.”
Picture: A Christmas ornament decorated with a church. (CNS photo/Harald Oppitz, KNA).