You might be one of those people who already had their Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving and yet you are among the first to toss it after December 25.
In some cases it’s understandable — despite your best watering efforts, not all trees can last more than a month before all but withering into firewood.
But did you know that, technically, you should be leaving your tree up until January 6? And do you know why?
Hint: It’s not to enjoy the decorations for two extra weeks (although it is an added bonus if you had climbed on top of your roof to set up outdoor lights).
The answer, of course, is tradition, which calls for us to celebrate Christmas and therefore leave our decorations through January 6. But the finer details vary from the Western to Eastern Christian churches.
In Western Christianity, January 6 mainly commemorates the visit of the Three Wise Men to newborn Jesus, and thus Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles. This feast is widely known as “Three Kings’ Day” and in some traditions celebrated as “Little Christmas.” For some denominations, the feast also begins the liturgical season of Epiphanytide, which ends at varying points in the calendar depending on the specific church.
Some Western Christian branches celebrate January 6 as the “Twelfth Night” or “Epiphany Eve,” which marks the last night of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Different traditions mark the date of this celebration as either the fifth of sixth of January, depending on whether the counting begins on Christmas Day or December 26.
In Eastern Christianity, January 6 commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God — a phenomenon called “Theophany” in Greek. The spot marked by Qasr el Yahud in the West Bank, and Al-Maghtas in Jordan on the East Bank, is considered to be the original site of the baptism of Jesus and the ministry of John the Baptist.
In Greece and throughout the Greek world, Epiphany customs include singing carols or “kalanta” as well as the cross diving ceremony in which a Greek Orthodox priest or bishop throws a cross into the water for young men to retrieve. The act signifies Jesus’ going into the river Jordan and the retriever is said to have a year of good luck.’
One of the largest cross diving ceremonies takes place every year in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where locals have gathered for more than 100 years with as many as 20,000 attendees in recent years.
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