When should I take Christmas decorations down?

Have you already tired of your tree? Or would you happily enjoy its twinkling lights and bright baubles for another six months? Deciding when to take Christmas decorations down can be a dilemma – especially if not everyone in your home is in agreement.

To help you make your choice, we’ve consulted a few experts on the matter. And we’ve come up with ways to make the operation as painless as possible when you do get round to ditching the decs.

When should I take my Christmas tree down?

At the end of the day, when you take down your decorations should be your personal choice. But the majority of people follow the Christian tradition of taking their trees down the first week of January, on the 12th day of Christmas (5th January) or the Feast of Epiphany (6th January). The Feast of Epiphany commemorates the ‘Three Wise Men’, or Magi, visiting Jesus in Bethlehem. Some believe it’s bad luck to leave decorations up beyond this date.  

“We’re quite traditional here, so we tend to take the trees out of our properties 12 days after Christmas,” says Pamela Smith, a gardens and parklands consultant at The National Trust. “There’s always a bit of debate in our house as to whether that’s the night or the day of the 5th January. Although I have a friend who takes down all her decorations down on Boxing Day, which horrifies me!”

Christmas tree in blue-grey sitting room with boucle white sofa
Removing your tree can be disruptive, especially if you have lots of furniture to negotiate. Image credit: John Lewis

But Pamela’s friend is not alone. According to John Lewis’s Festive Traditions Tracker 2023, “We’ve become a country that just can’t wait to declutter. The tradition of waiting until the Twelfth Night (6th Jan) to take everything down is now ignored by one in three, with almost 20% choosing ‘Twixmas’ – the period between Christmas and New Year’s Day – to clear away.”

If, on the other hand, you and your decorations aren’t easily parted, there is also historical justification to keep them up until February. “Contrary to popular belief, the Christmas season actually continues right through to Candlemas on 2 February,” says Dr Michael Carter, English Heritage’s senior properties historian. “So there’s no real reason why you should take your decorations down earlier.”

How to take down a real tree without making a mess

If you’ve looked after your Christmas tree properly, you may think that taking it down will be easy. But that’s usually not the case. “It doesn’t matter how healthy your tree still looks,” says Pamela. “I guarantee you that the minute you start to take it down, it will lose lots of needles.”

Thankfully, however, Pamela has a clever hack for reducing the mess as you drag the tree to your nearest exit.

“Take your decorations off, then put an old quilt cover over the tree and carry it out of the house. The quilt will catch a lot of the needles. You could also use a sheet or a towel or a bin bag, but I find the quilt to be most effective.”

3 uses for your tree after Christmas

If you are lucky, your local council may run a Christmas tree recycling scheme. But if you’d rather not mess up your car, or wait weeks for a collection, there are plenty of things you can do with a redundant cut tree.

  • Create a bird sanctuary: “We stand our old tree in the corner of our garden and hang feeders on it, so that it becomes a place for birds to sit and eat,” says Pamela.
  • Use it for fire wood: Put the tree in a sheltered spot and leave it to dry out, or ‘season’. “You could then make it a tradition to use the logs from the previous year’s tree on the fire the following Christmas,” suggests Pamela.
  • Chop up the tree and build an insect habitat: If you don’t have a fire or stove, the logs can still be useful. “Stack them up in a corner of your garden and the insects can make them a home,” says Pamela.

Going to miss your decorations? Try these homely hacks

Candles in jewel vases on coffee table
Burning candles can be a good way to keep the home looking festive long after the main decorations have come down. Image credit: Jewels Tiered Vase Amber, £24.99, Ivyline

Worrying that your house will look bare and cold without decorations is common. And with cold, dark January feeling bleak at the best of times, it’s a valid concern. So if you can’t go, ahem, cold turkey, but equally want to rid yourself of some Christmas clutter, you could try the following:

  • Keep the lights: Take the twinkling lights that adorned the tree and use them elsewhere – for example, pop them in a large hurricane vase with some chunky pine cones. Make sure the lights are LED so your cones don’t catch fire!
  • Update wreaths and garlands: As we’ve mentioned, in the Middle Ages greenery in the house wasn’t just for Christmas. So keep your wreaths and garlands, but switch out obviously festive red baubles and gold bows for something more subtle. Think burlap bows and foraged berries.
  • Embrace seasonal scents: Christmas is done and dusted, but your memories of it needn’t be. As studies by Harvard and other institutions have shown, scent has an extremely evocative power. So keep those festive scented candles burning.