Taking down a Christmas tree after the holidays might feel a bit like unpacking from a whirlwind vacation. It’s been fun and you’ve created some wonderful memories, but now you have a ton of laundry to do — or rather, a ton of ornaments to take down and perhaps even a dying fir tree to deal with.
If you’ve got an artificial tree, that will certainly buy you more time past December 25. But it still begs the question: When should you take down your Christmas tree?
The answer is still up for debate. Christian tradition says one thing, but Christmas tree farmers and pest control experts say another. We've laid out all the options below.
Keep in mind that there's no right or wrong answer here. The statistics speak for themselves: The Home Decor Report from Opendoor found that 51% of their respondents take decorations down right around New Year’s Day, though 84% wait until later in January.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the most common times people take down their trees. Note: It’s not automatic grounds for being on Santa’s naughty list if your Christmas tree lingers for longer!
New Year’s Day
Lots of people love ending the year with a brightly lit tree, but it seems like many have taking down their tree high atop their list of New Year’s resolutions.
“January 1st is that clear marker of time that the holidays are over and a new beginning is here,” Ariana Lovato, owner and principal designer at Honeycomb Home Design, told TODAY. “Time to clean up the home, clear up the clutter and take a breath from the stress of the holidays.”
“Many people will take down their artificial Christmas tree, wreath or holiday decor during the week following New Year’s Day so as to start the year anew or wait until January 6 as the final day to remove all holiday decor,” Lewis Puleo, vice president at Puleo International, the oldest artificial tree company in the country, told TODAY.
January 6 is known as the Epiphany, Little Christmas or Three Kings Day. From the perspective of religion tradition, it is the day that the Magi (the Three Kings or the Wise Men) brought gifts to the infant Jesus, so it makes sense for many to mark this as the last day for the Christmas season.
And as the song goes, there are indeed 12 days of Christmas, with the last being January 6.
Any time in January
According to the 2020 “Undeck the Halls” report by Neighbor, more than half of Americans won’t frown upon keeping decorations up past January 1. You might start to get the side-eye from your neighbors at a certain point, though: 31% said decorations should come down by January 15, while 33% extended the deadline to February 1.
When your tree says it's time
“Growing up on a Christmas tree farm in the South, we’ve heard so many different perspectives on when the ideal time to take down the tree is,”Kaitlin Carpenter, a second-generation Christmas tree farmer in Ashe County, NC, and owner of Third Day Market, told TODAY. “The undressing of the Christmas tree has become more and more of a personal, highly opinionated topic, where no one is wrong and yet, no one is right.”
That said, if you have a real Christmas tree in your midst, it’s really up to the fir itself to decide when it comes down. And unfortunately, it might be sooner rather than later.
If your tree is exhibiting any of the following signs, Carpenter says it might be time to take down your tree, no matter the date:
The needles are falling, either on their own or with the touch of your hand
The limbs are stiff or droopy
It smells musty rather than like citrus or pine
The tree doesn’t seem to be taking in much or any water
A dehydrated tree can be dangerous in your home, especially if have lit candles nearby. In fact, a holiday safety report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found that fires resulting from dry Christmas trees and holiday candles causes nearly $56 million in property loss each year.
Aside from that inherent danger, a real Christmas tree might also, unfortunately, invite other natural things to spend Christmas with you.
“Homeowners should inspect and shake Christmas trees, wreaths and other live greenery thoroughly before bringing into the house,” Scot Hodges, pest expert and A.C.E. Certified entomologist at Arrow Exterminators, told TODAY. “Store all holiday decorations in plastic, airtight containers and when retrieving from the attic or basement, inspect them outdoors before bringing inside.”
Hodges recommends that you also seal up any holes or cracks around your foundation, put a screen over vents and chimneys, and close up any openings near exterior doors and windows to keep unwanted visitors. If there’s any sign of pests or rodents, it’s time to remove the tree and contact a pest professional.
Don’t let any of this sway you from having a real tree, though. “With proper care, you could easily enjoy your tree from Thanksgiving through the New Year or Epiphany, because who doesn’t want to make the holidays last just a little bit longer,” Carpenter added.
But really, take it down anytime you want
Provided you have an artificial tree — or maybe you just have a green thumb — you can leave your tree up for as long as you want. It’s your house, your rules. What's more, the aforementioned Neighbor report found that 9% of respondents wouldn’t mind if you kept your decorations up all year.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to prolong the festivities. But there might be something else to keeping your holiday decor up well past the season.
“The tree can be thought of as a transitional object/security blanket,” Amber Dunford, a design psychologist and the style director for Overstock, said. “It’s a symbol of comfort for us, so it makes sense that people want to carry it with them throughout all seasons because Christmas can be such a magical time.”
Whatever your Christmas decoration timeline is in your home, it’s important to take a step back, take a deep breath, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. It is the most wonderful time of the year, after all!
This article was originally published on TODAY.com