Published: 06:00, 05 January 2021
| Updated: 12:19, 05 January 2021
Keep the halls decked with boughs of holly and leave your Christmas decorations up, English Heritage is urging people today.
After an especially tough year, and to bring some cheer in the coming dark winter months, the charity, which runs sites including Dover Castle in the county, is encouraging the public to do as their medieval ancestors did and leave up their festive decorations up until Candlemas on Tuesday, February 2.
Falling 40 days after Christmas, Candlemas - also known as the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary - was observed as the official end of Christmas in medieval England.
The date itself was a feast day and is so-called because candles to be used in churches in the coming year would be blessed on that day.
There were also candlelit processions in honour of the feast.
Evidence shows decorations were kept up until the evening before Candlemas, including in the 17th century poem, Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve, by Robert Herrick.
Dr Michael Carter, English Heritage’s senior properties historian, 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 January 6. But contrary to popular belief, the Christmas season actually continues right through to Candlemas on February 2 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.”
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English Heritage is encouraging the public to share photos via the charity’s social media channels.
A selection of English Heritage sites remain open for local residents with large outdoor spaces, while indoor sites are closed. To find out more visit english-heritage.org.uk.