Twelfth Night has come when some say ill-luck
will come to some souls and go running amok
if their baubles and candles still hang, and bright tinsel
and such dingle-dangles which they’re saying long since will
have lost their immediacy, attracting the spite,
malevolence and such-like of brownie and sprite.
So take down the décor, the fairy, the lights
which shine there from Advent to Christmas; Twelfth Night’s
the end of the season — or so it is said.
But what says one Herrick,* a poet long dead?
DOWN with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas Hall:
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind :
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected, there (maids, trust to me)
So many goblins you shall see.
Then let us follow Herrick, who knew what must be known,
and keep our Yuletide greenery up till darkness has all flown.
* Robert Herrick (1591-1674): Ceremony upon Candlemas Eve.
Candlemas — celebrated by the lighting of candles forty days after Christmas (2nd February) — marks the feast of the Presentation in the Temple and also of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary: in the Middle Ages women were ‘churched’ forty days after childbirth to purify them, because the Church regarded them as unclean. It was also a day to predict whether winter would come again:
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.