Jan. 5 official ‘taking down the tree’ day

Published 4:49 pm Thursday, January 3, 2019

For many Beaufort County residents, Christmas trees come down the day after Christmas, ornaments are packed away and pine needles swept up from the floor.

Others, however, adhere to tradition: a Christmas tree doesn’t come down until the Twelfth Night, otherwise known as the Eve of Epiphany — Jan. 5 and the twelfth night after Christmas.

Taking a Christmas tree down on this night is a tradition that dates back to the 4th century, and it’s one that comes from a mix of Christian belief and ancient superstition.

Since Epiphany marks the visit of the Three Kings to the Bethlehem manger, bearing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, it is believed that to take a tree down before the day of their arrival is bad luck. Taking it down too late results in the same bad luck. The superstitious part comes from an ancient belief that tree-spirits lived in the holly and ivy used to decorate for the holiday — if those spirits were released to the outdoors before the Christmas season officially ended, they would wreak havoc on the year’s harvest.

For those in the running for some good luck and perhaps a good harvest, all signs point to Saturday being the day to take down the tree.

So, what to do with a used Christmas tree? Well, Washington’s regular trash service will pick it up next week if you put it out with the regular yard waste.

“We did not pick up yard waste this week because of New Year’s or last week because of  Christmas,” said City of Washington Public Works Director Adam Waters. “We will resume our regular schedule next week, on Tuesday.”

  • For those less inclined to toss the tree in the trash, there are other ways to reuse this year’s evergreen.
  • Mulch it. Locate place to mulch your tree and bring it home to help regulate soil temperature and prevent water loss for your permanent landscape plants.
  • Feed the birds. Turn the back yard into a birdwatchers delight by coating branches with peanut butter, then rolling in bird seed.
  • Sachet it. Keep the smell of Christmas the whole year ‘round by plucking needles from branches and filling up sachets. Hide them around the house for an unexpected waft of evergreen freshness.
  • Burn it. Those with wood-burning fireplaces can cut their tree into small pieces that can then be used as fire starters.

The holidays might be over, but the season dictates that tree stay — but just until Saturday. It’s a matter of luck.