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UK News

Keep Christmas decorations up until February like in the Middle Ages, experts say

by Press Association

Leave up Christmas decorations and keep the halls decked with boughs of holly until February to bring cheer in the dark winter months, English Heritage has said.

The charity is appealing to the public to follow the traditions of their medieval ancestors and leave festive decorations up until Candlemas on February 2.

Candlemas, which has the full name the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was the official end of Christmas in medieval England.

It consisted of great feasts and the blessing of candles that were to be used in churches in the coming year.

Experts at English Heritage say evidence that Christmas decorations were kept up until the evening before Candlemas is well documented, with many churches today displaying Christmas cribs until February 2.

One early 17th-century poem by Robert Herrick, Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve, describes green foliage including holly and ivy as well as mistletoe being removed.

Dr Michael Carter, senior properties historian at English Heritage, said: "In the Middle Ages, houses would be decorated with greenery for the Christmas season on Christmas Eve day.

"The feast of Christmas started at around 4pm on Christmas Eve afternoon and continued until the Epiphany on 6 January.

"But contrary to popular belief, the Christmas season actually continues right through to Candlemas on 2 February so there's no real reason why you should take your decorations down earlier.

"The tradition that it is bad luck to keep decorations up after Twelfth Night and the Epiphany is a modern invention, although it may derive from the medieval notion that decorations left up after Candlemas eve would become possessed by goblins.

"I'm of the opinion that, after the year we've all had, we certainly deserve to keep the Christmas cheer going a little longer."

In the 16th century, Yuletide celebrations began on Hallowe'en and continued until Candlemas - meaning festivities lasted for almost a quarter of a year.
 

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