Anne here, with the last of our daily Yuletide posts. It's Twelfth Night, Epiphany, Old Christmas Day, Christmas Day for some, Theofania if you're Greek, or merely the 6th January, depending on where you stand — and apologies to all the many other groups I've left out. Whatever, it's a significant date for a good many people around the world.
I've mentioned the ones I'm most familiar with. I live in a city with a huge population of Greeks (the biggest Greek city outside of Greece) so we know all about Theofania and the Blessing of the Waters ceremony. It's a lot easier here for the young men to dive for the cross, as it's summer. When I saw it years ago in Greece, they had to break the ice before diving in. Brrr!
One of my oldest friends is Ukranian, and like most Eastern Catholics (or Orthodox people) they're preparing for Christmas now, and their kitchens might look something like this. Those yummy little things are called varenyky. (Thanks, Michelle for the photo.)
Other people are taking down their Christmas decorations, because it's supposed to be bad luck to leave them up after the twelfth day of Christmas.
And for some folks in Regency England, it was called Old Christmas Day, because the calendar only changed in 1752, and the old folks remembered when the government stole eleven days from them.
The reason for that was all to do with the measuring of time, and the astronomical calculations of the length of a year. In Julius Caesar's time, Romans decided to measure the length of a year by the sun (instead of the phases of the moon.) One year was made up of 365 and a quarter days, organized into twelve months. However their calculations were not quite accurate enough and by the 16th century the calendar was ten days out.
In 1582, Pope Gregory redefined the official length of a year, deleted the ten extra days, and most of Catholic Europe obeyed. It was called the Gregorian Calendar.
England, however was Protestant and ignored the Pope's edict, and by the 18th century, England was eleven days ahead of the rest of Europe. Something had to give. An Act was passed and September 1752 was the target. One day it was 2nd Sept, the next it was the 14th. Before this change, however, Christmas Day was celebrated on 6th January — hence Old Christmas Day.
Does 6th January have any significance for you? I'm working on my next book, and in the breaks I'm taking down my (fairly minimalist) Christmas decorations. What are you doing today?