The Epiphany after Twelfth Night

MagiToday, January 6, is Epiphany for most of the Western Church, (Eastern churches use a different calendar) the celebration of the arrival of the Magi and introduction of the Messiah to the world. (image: "Adoration of the Magi" by Lawrence OP )

The Magi, or the Three Kings, are only mentioned in the English translation of the Bible as men who studied stars, presumably astrologers who foresaw the birth of a Messiah. (Or my cynicism speaking—astronomers who predicted the convergence of the planets and wanted to find the best spot to observe, but I could be wrong about that. <G>)

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Brightening the Dark Days of Winter

LightNicola here. Today is known as Epiphany, Three Kings Day or Twelfth Day. For many the date marks the end of the Christmas festivities, the day people take down their decorations if they haven't already done so the day before. It’s also the last of the Word Wench festive posts for this season as we head out into 2017!

We’re lucky that these days we have artificial light to help us face the long, cold and dark days of winter. Candles and firelight may sound romantic but I imagine that if I was trying to read or write in that sort of light on a daily basis it would get very difficult. Travel, work, cooking, all the elements of daily life are aided by light. Importantly a lot of people also find their mood is affected by an absence of natural light and so the darkness can pull us down and at the start of the year in particular, when Christmas is over, it’s important to have things that lift our spirits.

Many of the events and entertainments that are going on at the moment have their roots far back in history. The fun fair, the Three kings
pantomime and the carnival were all winter activities designed to entertain people when life was bleak. Coming back to Three Kings Day, El Dia de Los Reyes, is a particularly important festival in Spain and Latin America, but there are celebrations on 6th January across the globe, ranging from pageants and parades to the creation of special bread to share at family and community meals.

Here in the UK it’s pantomime season (Oh no it isn’t!) The origins of the panto date back to the Middle Ages and over the years have incorporated lots of different traditions from Tudor masques to Victorian music hall. The pantomimes are nearly always based on well known children's stories such as Peter Pan, Aladdin, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty etc. Pantomimes are performed not only in the top UK theatres but also in village halls throughout the country. Our local one is Jack and the Beanstalk. Audience participation is a very important part of a pantomime and it’s all very silly and fun. The audience are encouraged to boo the villain whenever he enters the stage, argue with the Dame (who is always a man) and warn the Principal Boy (who is always a girl) when the villain is behind them by shouting out "He's behind you!" It’s completely eccentric but it gets us through the winter!

BreadThis evening I'll be making cheese and rocket bread, in honour of Three Kings Day. It's delicious eaten warm, with a bit of butter and extra cheese! Are you a fan of speciality breads? What would you recommend to share to celebrate Twelfth Day? 

Creche 2010eJoanna here.

I love this pause between the astronomical new year the solstice and the calendar New Year. A sort of an interregnum comes that doesn't seem to belong to either the old year or the new. It's the time between.

In this time, my creche fills up. Tonight the baby is safe and warm in the manger. The sheep have come in from the pastures to adore the child. The turtle and a hedge hog have finally crawled in. An owl keeps an eye on everything. Angels hover. Mandy belly up

Over on the bookcase, the Magi travel toward Jerusalem. They'll arrive on Epiphany, January 6th.The Three Kings, a camel, and a couple of donkey make their way with awe and deliberation, led by an angel.

Me. I'm taking this week off from all worry and all duty. I relax. I think about the year to come and the next story to write. It's a good time.

The dog Mandy agrees with me.

And the Christmas Tree Comes Down

Yesterday was Twelfth Night, the last of the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas. It's gone and taken with it the Twelve Drummers Creche 7Drumming, Eleven Pipers Piping and the rest of that leaping, dancing, twittering lot. If you went in for Twelfth Night festivities — the way my Regency folks probably did — you'd be sleeping off a surfeit the food and drink today

We've come to the feast of Epiphany.

In my house, this is the day we take all the Christmas stuff down.

Christmas tree 2014 4I had a small, small Christmas tree this year. Green branches in various places, but a small tree. Many beautiful presents from friends and family. Much love. But not so much decoration of the house.  (The Kid had all four wisdom teeth out two days before Christmas so I was mostly figuring out how to be festive with no solid foods.)

Today I took the little tree down and de-decorated it. I will go out in the next couple days and plant it in a specially wondrous spot at the edge of the woods. For me, here at the beginning of the year, this is re-creation and new committment and planting a tree goes with that.
3 kings
In other news, Epiphany is the day the Magi show up, bearing gifts.  Melchior, 118px-07._Camel_Profile,_near_Silverton,_NSW,_07.07.2007Caspar, and Balthazar bringing gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Somehow I always think of camels on this date. They're bad-tempered, if you were wondering, and they bite.

So … when do you put up your Christmas tree and when do you take it down? And, like, why?