Illuminated tree is quite deliberate, vicar insists

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FESTIVE celebrations might be over for most of us - but one South Yorkshire church will be keeping its Christmas tree lit up until February as it follows an age-old religious tradition.

The tree outside Darton Church in Barnsley will stay illuminated - as the vicar, Father Simon Reynolds, believes traditionally the festivities should last for 40 days, until Candlemas Day on February 2. And Father Reynolds has issued a reminder about the illuminated tree to local residents and passers-by- to save parishioners ringing him to ask why the tree hasn’t been taken down.

“Every year I get a steady stream of telephone calls,” he said.

“They range from people who think we’ve forgotten to take the tree down, to people worried that keeping a Christmas decoration up might bring bad luck on the village.”

He insisted that taking decorations down on the 12th night is a relatively recent secular tradition.

Instead, he said, since the Middle Ages the church has celebrated Christmas in England for 40 days.

Father Reynolds added: “Callers to the vicarage will see that I also keep my Christmas cards and other decorations up until Candlemas Day in my home too.” Celebrations will end in Darton with a candle procession, before the church turns its attention to Lent and Easter.

The ancient festival of Candlemas marks the midpoint of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox. The Christian tradition commemorates the ritual purification of Mary 40 days after Jesus’ birth.