Last night’s post about Christmas continuing until 5 January has led to a few questions about when, exactly is 12th Night. The answer is simple – but with a small twist that provides sufficient doubt as to cause confusion.
Traditionally, people would leave their Christmas decorations up until 12th Night. Those of a superstitious bent thought it would be bad look to keep decorations up beyond this time.
12th Night in the UK is 5 January – the eve of Epiphany. But the twist is that the 12th Night could be on 4 January – if you celebrate feast days on the previous evening; as is the case in Germany and eastern European countries – a tradition that dates back to early Jewish times and is still followed in the Jewish calendar (hence the sabbath beginning at sun-down on Friday rather than midnight).
In England, where we tend not to follow this tradition, the first day of Christmas is Christmas Day and our 1st Night of Christmas is the evening of 25 December. In that sense, the 12th Night is 5 January:
25 Dec: 1st Day and Night
26 Dec: 2nd Day and Night
27 Dec: 3rd Day and Night
28 Dec: 4th Day and Night
29 Dec: 5th Day and Night
30 Dec: 6th Day and Night
31 Dec: 7th Day and Night
1 Jan: 8th Day and Night
2 Jan: 9th Day and Night
3 Jan: 10th Day and Night
4 Jan: 11th Day and Night
5 January 12th Day and Night.
If you follow the German, eastern European and Jewish calendar style; then you bring the nights forward one day:
24 December: 1st Night
25 December: 1st Day; 2nd Night… and so on, until:
4 Jan: 12th Night and 11th Day.
So, in answer to the question “When is 12th Night?” – in the UK, it is 5 January; but in parts of Europe it will be marked on 4 January.
Does it matter? No. Not in the slightest. I don’t believe in good luck or bad luck. And even if such concepts existed, I doubt if you could bring bad luck by keeping up Christmas decorations for too long. So take them down when you want (even if that is Boxing Day!).