I know this is burning question (yeah, it’s a pun) for many of you. I now have an authoritative Orthodox answer. (And I know that’s exactly what you’ve all been looking for. ha!) That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!
Growing up we went to the mountains (okay, hills … but they had pine trees on them) south of town on Friday after Thanksgiving and cut our tree. That thing stayed put until Epiphany: Thanksgiving until the end of the twelve days of Christmas. Fire hazard be damned! It’s not that we celebrated Epiphany. I grew up in a family that was highly suspicious of anything smelling of Roman Catholicism, but mom just loved the Christmas tree lights.
Of course, in many communities if you don’t have your old, dead tree out by the curb during the week between Christmas and New Years you’ll miss the tree pickup and have to dispose of it yourself. It’s all a bit of social engineering as community leaders try to avoid Christmas tree fires involving very dry trees wrapped with electrical cords.
In response, many Christians have been busy on social media insisting that the tree should stay up until Epiphany (Jan 6) which is the twelfth day of Christmas on the Roman Catholic calendar. But from a family systems standpoint, this is rather impractical, because the kids are back in school, and typically this means that mom gets stuck removing the decorations and taking down the tree all by herself.
But this year I have stumbled upon a solution that is community tree removal friendly, sympathetic to family dynamics, and liturgically correct … you just have to be Orthodox for a week or so. In the Orthodox Church the Christmas Feast is only seven days long. The Leavetaking of the Nativity Feast is Dec. 31. January 1, the eighth day after Nativity, is Name Day (or Circumcision), when Mary’s baby receives the name Jesus – not technically part of Christmas, but a feast in and of itself. We then move into the Theophany Cycle with what is called the “Forefeast of Theophany.”
So, if you really want to take your Christmas Tree down but have been cowed by your religious zealot friends who insist the tree must remain up until the end of Christmas, you can now be “holier than them” and inform them that they are liturgically misinformed. Christmas ends on Dec. 31 in the East. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
P.S. This scheme has the added benefit of making that ridiculous song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” totally irrelevant. You can now throw that out on the curb along with your old, dead tree.
P.P.S. Oh, and Happy Name Day! And since you’re Orthodox for a week, I certainly hope you served up a St. Basil’s Cake today.