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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Twelfth Night

Have the wise men from your nativity set been traveling gradually through the rooms of your home, steadily approaching the location of the Christ Child?  If so, today they must be very close, because technically, Epiphany begins January 5, Twelfth Night, at sundown.  The shepherds of course, have been packed cozily in their box for a few days now.  Their time in the Christmas story has passed.

 Viewed literally, it may have taken the wise men up to a couple of years to reach Jesus.  They actually met him in a house, not the stable.  But, literalness aside, our wise men are in the same room as Jesus now, and will arrive on Epiphany, January 6, to worship him as he rests in his manger.

Twelfth night is two things:  The last day of Christmas and the start of Epiphany.  It is double cause to celebrate.  Of course Shakespeare made it famous with his play of the same name, but for the most part, Americans likely do not even know what Twelfth Night is...particularly with the secular compulsion to celebrate "Christmas" during Advent, and to pack the whole jubilee up the next day.  But, we walk the seasons here, and stubbornly so.

In Colonial America, edibles such as fruits were removed from Christmas decorations on the Twelfth Day of Christmas, and eaten.  The decorations, of course, were then packed away, for on this day, we say a festive goodbye to the Christmas season, and a warm hello to Epiphany.

Wassail and King Cake are often on the menu on this night.  In some families, the King Cake is baked on Twelfth Night and eaten on Epiphany.  As is evident from Shakespeare's play, Twelfth Night celebrations could get pretty raucous in Medieval times.  Our family is not quite so rowdy, but nonetheless, we are exiting the Christmas feast and entering into the last hurrah (the Epiphany season) before the contemplative period of Lent.  I believe that keeping the observances of  the church year guides us toward immersing ourselves in all aspects of the gospel and Christian living, rather than allowing us to simply focus on the ones that feel good or are easily entered into.

So then, tonight, with our eye on the star, we feast!

Revel heartily friends!

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1 comment:

  1. My King Cake is waiting patiently in my microwave (keeps little fingers and kitty noses from getting too close) for this evening! Thanks for being such a regular contributor to the Nativity Carnival. I have often hosted a Lenten Carnival, too, so check back around Ash Wed for that!


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