Appalachia Christmas Folklore

After Christmas Folklore

After Christmas folklore when to take the tree down

It think our Christmas tree was the prettiest one we’ve ever had! The girls and The Deer Hunter will tell you I say that every year. It’s true I do say it every year and its true that I believe the tree to be the prettiest we’ve ever had.

When I was growing up Granny was never picky about when she took the tree down. Seems like she left it up till the first of January and Paul’s birthday-he was born on New Year’s Day.

The Deer Hunter and Papaw Tony left their tree decorated year round. They pulled it out of the attic when Christmas rolled around and stuck it back in the attic when Christmas was over.

We put our Christmas tree up right after Thanksgiving-typically the following weekend. By the day after Christmas I’m ready for it to come down.

Every year after Christmas I have the strong urge to Spring clean the house. I clean out closets and cabinets, move furniture, and change curtains. Getting the house in order seems to brighten the house after the chore of putting up Christmas until next year. And when Spring rolls around I’m too anxious to be out in the garden to think about cleaning anyway.

The Frank C. Brown Collection of NC Folklore has some confusing folklore to instruct you on when the Christmas tree and other decorations should be taken down.

  • take Christmas decorations down before the month is out or misfourtune will come to the house
  • never leave the Christmas tree up over New Years or it will bring bad luck
  • it is bad luck to take Christmas decorations down before Old Christmas (Jan 6) or to leave them up afterwards
  • Christmas decorations left hanging after 12th night (old Christmas) bring bad luck

My Christmas tree is still up, but I’m thinking I’ll take it down in the next day or two.

The days following Christmas are called ruling days because they are supposed to dictate the weather for the coming year. The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English has this to say about Ruling Days:

The twelve days beginning on Christmas day, each one of which is said to govern the weather for one month of the following year. 1905 Miles Spirit of Mts 107 But he and Arth do not disagree about certain weather signs their mother had taught them when they were “shirt-tail boys,” signs about Groundhog Day, for example, and the Ruling Days, the twelve days from the twenty-fifth of December to Old Christmas, each of which rules the weather of a month of the coming year.

My Christmas was unusually warm so I guess there goes my chance for a snowy January.


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  • Reply
    June Jolley
    January 3, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    I am recovering from knee surgery, so my tree is still up and I am enjoying every minute of it. Guess I will gradually start taking it down this weekend though. I am with you about that cleaning up after Christmas, as well as getting rid of Christmas decorations that I no longer use.

  • Reply
    December 29, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    I don’t have an opinion about how long to leave a tree up or such, but as far as snow, we’re having quite a lot this winter. This is the third or fourth “real” snow, and it’s been coming down steady since morning, and expected to continue til late night.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    December 28, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    It is a beautiful Christmas Tree! Beautiful! I must say: Your tree and ours look very much alike. Now as to putting it all away, we have always left our tree up and all decorations lighted every evening until the daytime of January 6 or “Old Christmas” … Twelfthnight.

  • Reply
    December 28, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    I like your Tree, the Blue and Green set it off. I enjoyed Christmas this year, even if it was too warm. Since my youngin’s and grandgirls weren’t here, I didn’t even put up a Tree. …Ken

  • Reply
    December 28, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    My Nana was born on Old Christmas in Yancey County in the early 1900’s. My Mama says the reason behind Old Christmas is because the Three Wise Men didn’t arrive in Bethlehem until the 6th of January so the baby Jesus didn’t receive their gifts until then. We always left the tree and the decorations up until after Old Christmas for that reason. I think I will leave my lights up on my front porch this year because I just love the glow of them!
    Much love to you from the riverbank in Marshall, Tipper and the ‘gang’.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    December 28, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    One year I left it up until April — when my Navy son who was at sea during Christmas came home on leave!

  • Reply
    December 28, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    When I get an urge to clean I sit down for a few minutes and the urge passes.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 28, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Beautiful tree! Is your tree topper an angel or a star? I’m thinking a Brasstown angel!
    Yep, I get in the Spring cleaning mood right after the tree is taken down!
    However, the mood doesn’t last long! I get more in the mood after a big snow melts! I generally am ready for Spring catalogs and starting seeds!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Carol Rosenbalm
    December 28, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    My tree has not even been decorated but about 10 days. My mom has told me about old Christmas so that’s what I’m doing this year! Old Christmas the mountain people were of strong Christian faith and they did old Christmas! I was sick most of the time between thanksgiving and week before Christmas. I’ve been reading about New Year’s Day and where the custom of black eyed peas and greens and cornbread came from. My family always ate these foods for New Year’s Day.
    Old Christmas blessings!
    Carol Rosenbalm

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 28, 2016 at 11:35 am

    My tree is down, however it was never up this year as we spent Christmas with our son and family.
    Had a few decorations around but not the big one this year.
    Never seems the same without some type of tree in the home at Christmas, regardless whether it be real or artificial, tall or short nor skinny or fat, cedar, exotic fir, pine or aluminum with spinning multicolored light, green, blue-green or flocked snow white! ha
    We took ours down on New Years Day, before the football bowl games started and while the Rose Bowl Parade was beginning?? No reason in particular, but had more help packing it all back up! ha
    Gayle, your Mothers saying is more than likely based on Matthew 16:2-3 NIV, but like you we have had some beautiful sunsets and morning sunrises with however no clouds and that I think is the difference!
    Great post Tipper

  • Reply
    December 28, 2016 at 11:10 am

    We used to purchase our tree on my husband’s birthday, Dec. 4th. That gave us time to clean up from Thanksgiving as well as reduced the arguments among the kids about which tree to choose – Daddy made the final decision because it was his birthday.
    Taking it down was a lot more random but when needles fell every time the cats batted it, it went out.
    The last couple of years have been a tangle of tussles – just one mostly minor but time-consuming thing after another – and this year our tree is still sitting on the porch. but the family is coming in for a New Year’s Christmas on Sunday – so maybe we’ll get it up and a few decorations on by then.
    About the weather – we hit 82 day before yesterday! It was sunny and lovely the day after Christmas so January should be a warm beauty. Yesterday was foggy and cloudy with a temperature range from 61-73 so guess that would make February a warm but dreary month. Do hope we get some cold somewhere – we need it to reduce the bug population or we will be fighting grass hoppers in the garden and mosquitos in the air more than usual!
    Since reading that bit of folklore about the weather and the 12 days of Christmas in your blog, I’ve always meant to, but never completely followed through with, seeing how they lined up with the actual weather of the 12 months of the year. My guess is, they don’t; but thought it would be fun to check it out. My chart is at the ready so we’ll see how far I get with it this year. . . .

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 28, 2016 at 10:08 am

    I had never heard of ruling days and I confess to still being hazy on Old Christmas. Neither now or when I was growing up did we take down decorations at any certain time. But for years and years we had real trees from the wild or the Christmastree farm and they were often brittle and dry by Christmas and it was time for them to go. To this day I still notice nice Christmas tree candidates along the road.
    When the kids were home going on the tree hunt was one of our traditions. The looking for was the fun, all that searching for the perfect tree which usually turned out to be one of the first five or so. But somebody needs to figure out how to have the smell of the real tree with artificial trees.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    December 28, 2016 at 9:38 am

    Our tree is still up. My Dad got sick over Christmas and decided it was time for him to move to assisted living (he will be 94 in March), so we are back and forth trying to get him moved. Our tree may come down Jan. 31! It is artificial, so no worries about dry wood in the house.

  • Reply
    December 28, 2016 at 9:28 am

    I sold my 12′ tree and bought a 9′, thinking it would be easier to handle and less distance to fall off the ladder. I was wrong! The “professional” Sno-Flock I sprayed on it was beautiful until I took it down. I followed directions…but something went wrong! I will be cleaning snow off every piece of furniture and every inch of floor the tree passed on the way out the door. Is that my bad luck for taking it down so soon?
    My grandson and I went shopping the day after Christmas and had to turn on the AC in the car. The local weather channel said it was 76 degrees but it felt warmer.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    December 28, 2016 at 8:49 am

    We don’t really hold too fast to any of these. My family generally just took the tree down when it was time. But, my grandma (my Dad’s mom) said the tree could stay up until January 13. There were the 12 days ending with Old Christmas on the 6 and then you had the “8 Days” to return to normal time (I guess non-holiday time?). I looked it up once and the days lined up, more or less, with Christmastide.
    Anyway, that is what I stick to–mostly because Granny said so and my birthday is the 10th!

  • Reply
    December 28, 2016 at 8:36 am

    This year I tried using a wall tree. It is hung like a picture on the wall. I found it in a catalog and it had red bows, lights and small blue and red balls on it. I added snowflakes. It was actually great and looked pretty. Soon it will be rolled up and I plan to use it again next year. However, there nothing more gorgeous than a good sized real or artificial tree. Happy new year to all!

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    December 28, 2016 at 8:27 am

    Something came to mind when you mentioned the weather. My mother always said “red at night, sailors delight red in the morning sailors take warning”.
    We seem to have a lot of beautiful red sunrises and then beautiful days.
    When up north it usually came true but here in the south it appears to not matter.
    I wonder if it is because we were closer to the sea or just an old wives tale.

  • Reply
    December 28, 2016 at 8:25 am

    I recently read that if you have a warm Christmas you will have a cold Easter. Green Christmas a white Easter. Guess we’ll see in a few months.
    May peace and joy be multiplied in you through Jesus Christ.
    Many blessings for the coming year.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    December 28, 2016 at 8:22 am

    We generally decorate our tree the week after Thanksgiving and always leave our Christmas tree up until Old Christmas. However, when I was growing up, I seem to remember that mom would always take it down before New Year’s Day.
    I have always heard about the Ruling Days and every year, I intend to write down what the weather is each day and I always forget! Maybe I will give it a try this year!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 28, 2016 at 8:15 am

    Tipper, the thing about your Christmas trees is…they are all the prettiest ever. Your trees are so full of love that they glow. They are you. Your heart is in every ornament on it and in every string around it.
    I’ve never known a woman, wife, or mother like you! You ooze love everywhere! LOL!
    The Deer Hunter is one smart and lucky man!

  • Reply
    December 28, 2016 at 8:14 am

    I am kinda OCD , and I agree with you. Get the decorations down as soon as possible and get things back to neat and orderly. As you pointed out, we all know it’s bad luck to have the decorations up after New Years. Need all the good luck I can get, and always have the greens and black eyed peas to start the year. ..Getting the tree down also gets rid of a potential fire hazard.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 28, 2016 at 8:03 am

    We always leave our tree up til the 6th of Jan. for good luck. Always put them up during the Thanksgiving weekend. I love my tree.
    Never heard having it down before New Years, but quite a few around here take it down the day after for luck.

  • Reply
    December 28, 2016 at 7:19 am

    Tipper, I just leave my tree up until I “take a notion” to take it down. I clean and paint all winter, but come springtime the house gets a “lick and a promise.” The outdoor world becomes the main focus.

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