We leave our Christmas Tree and Yule Wreath up at my home until the end of the Yuletide.
The Yuletide is the period that begins on the first Sunday in Advent and lasts until the Twelfth Day of Christmas, which is also called Epiphany (January 6th). Epiphany celebrates the legendary arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem.
In our day and age we do not do much with the Twelve Days of Christmas but in Medieval times they were a very big deal. The Twelfth Night Court was the most important social festival in the year.
On the Twelfth Night the King and Queen would appear in Court dressed in finery that had been kept secret. Their clothing would set the fashion tone for the rest of the year and tailors and seamstresses would become very busy over the next several weeks as the nobility changed their wardrobes to match.
On the Twelfth Night squires received the "accolade" and were made knights, young men were "priested" by undergoing ordination. Initial and final vows were taken by nuns and monks. Even apprentices who had completed their time of service were raised to journeyman rank in their chosen trade, and journeymen might be acclaimed masters. It was a time of beginnings.
I've always enjoyed this tradition and so we keep it in a small way at the Bates/Giles household. It is when I do my practice evaluation and set my goals for the new year. I spend hours with my personal journal evaluating how my life is unfolding and decide about any changes I want to make to keep my life focused on what I believe is important. I also make a special effort with my cooking and put festive meals on the table accompanied with hot cider and wines I've been saving for the season.
On January 6th, the Yuletide ends and we enter what the church calls "Ordinary Time" which extends until Ash Wednesday. Here in Chicago this time tends to be a cold, dark and wet time and getting through it has its own special challenges.
But we've not there yet. As I write this it is still within the Twelve Days of Christmas and I intend to enjoy them fully.