CharlieMC (charliemc) wrote,

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Today is Epiphany -- Also Known as Little Christmas...

Today is Epiphany, or what is also called Little Christmas. This was my maternal grandmother's birthday -- and, ironically enough, also the day my Mom died. (It's been 13 years since her death in 2000.) I just realized that while I know Dad died in June, I don't know the actual date. In fact, I don't think I know the date for many of the other meaningful deaths in my life. Leave it to Mom to die on a day that stands out! (smile) Well, maybe the fact that it's my mom would mean I'd know anyway -- who knows? And it's additionally interesting for her to have died on Grandma Elsie's bday.

As for family traditions, Little Christmas was the day we normally waited took down Christmas. (Or, sometimes it would be the first day -- when we started -- taking down Christmas. Or it could be the FINAL day we took down Christmas. I guess that all would depend on the year... And I don't really understand WHERE that tradition came from, by the way! Yes, I get that Christmastide runs from Christmas Day for 12 days (the twelve days of Christmas) -- which ends annually on January 5 (Twelfth Night). But I'm unclear on why my grandmother always wanted Christmas put away on (what for her was ALWAYS called 'Little Christmas')... As far as I know, this was important to Grandma Elsie, so it became equally important to Mom. And Mom tried to make it important for her kids (Marilyn, sister Sue and me).

QUICK ASIDE: I did take down the Christmas tree today and pack it away (and store it in the garage, where it belongs). So, happily, I got the Christmas decorations down before the end of the day on Little Christmas! (Happy, Mom???)

I tried researching this several years back, but I couldn't find much at that time. But this year I discovered that in Sweden, January 6 is a public holiday -- and many people will even take time off between January 1 and January 6. Mom was also brought up Lutheran, and Lutheran (and United Methodist) congregations (along with those of other denominations) do celebrate Epiphany on January 6. (Or they celebrate it on the following Sunday within the Epiphany week/octave -- or at another time [Epiphany Eve January 5, the nearest Sunday, etc.] -- as local custom dictates. In these denominations -- and others marking the festival's importance -- all of the Sundays following are marked as the first, second, third and so on, "Sunday after Epiphany," up until the beginning of Lent in February or March, with the intervening weeks commonly being called the Epiphany season.)

But I ran amok (grin) during this research -- and discovered a lot of other interesting information. I'll put this behind a cut for the curious...

More Info about Epiphany/Little Christmas

In Britain, the celebration of the Night before Epiphany, Epiphany Eve, is known as Twelfth Night (The first night of Christmas is December 25-26, and Twelfth Night is January 5-6), and was a traditional time for mumming and the wassail. The yule log was left burning until this day, and the charcoal left was kept until the next Christmas to kindle next year's yule log, as well as to protect the house from fire and lightning. In the past, Epiphany was also a day for playing practical jokes, similar to April Fool's Day. Today in England, Twelfth Night is still as popular a day for plays as when Shakespeare's Twelfth Night was first performed in 1601, and annual celebrations involving the Holly Man are held in London. A traditional dish for Epiphany was Twelfth Cake, a rich, dense, typically English fruitcake. As in Europe, whoever found the baked-in bean was king for a day, but unique to English tradition other items were sometimes included in the cake. Whoever found the clove was the villain, the twig, the fool, and the rag, the tart.

Anything spicy or hot, like ginger snaps and spiced ale, was considered proper Twelfth Night fare, recalling the costly spices brought by the Wise Men. Another English Epiphany dessert was the jam tart, but made into a six-point star for the occasion to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and thus called Epiphany tart. The discerning English cook sometimes tried to use thirteen different coloured jams on the tart on this day for luck, creating a dessert with the appearance of stained glass.

Germans eat a Three Kings cake which may be a golden pastry ring filled with orange and spice representing gold, frankincense and myrrh. Most often found in Switzerland, these cakes take the form of Buchteln but for Epiphany, studded with citron, and baked as seven large buns in a round rather than square pan, forming a crown. Or they may be made of typical rich Christmas bread dough with cardamom and pearl sugar in the same seven bun crown shape. These varieties are most typically purchased in supermarkets with the trinket, and gold paper crown included. As in other countries, the person who receives the piece or bun containing the trinket or whole almond becomes the king or queen for a day. Epiphany is also an especially joyful occasion for the young and young at heart as this is the day dedicated to plundern -- that is, when Christmas trees are 'plundered' of their cookies and sweets by eager children (and adults) and when gingerbread houses, and any other good things left in the house from Christmas are devoured.

The Irish call Epiphany the feast of the Epiphany or traditionally Little Christmas or "Women's Christmas." On the feast of the Three Kings the women of Ireland in times gone by had a bit of rest and celebration for themselves, after the cooking and work of the Christmas holidays.

It has long been a custom for women to gather this day for a special high tea, but on the occasion of Epiphany accompanied by wine, to honor the Miracle at the Wedding at Cana. Today Irish women may spend the day shopping, take a meal at a restaurant or spend the evening at gathering in a pub. Women may also receive gifts from children, grandchildren or other family members on this day.

Other Epiphany customs, which symbolize the end of the Christmas season, are popular in Ireland, such as the burning the sprigs of Christmas holly in the fireplace which have been used as decorations during the past twelve days.

In Poland, Poles though take small boxes containing chalk, a gold ring, incense and a piece of amber -- in memory of the gifts of the Magi -- to church to be blessed. Once at home, they inscribe "K+M+B+" and the year with the blessed chalk above every door in the house, according to tradition, to provide protection against illness and misfortune for those within. The letters, with a cross after each one, are said to stand either for the traditionally applied names of the Three Kings in Polish - Kacper, Melchior and Baltazar - or for a Latin inscription meaning "Christ bless this house." They remain above the doors all year until they are inadvertently dusted off or replaced by new markings the next year.

The Colonial Virginia Epiphany -- or 12th Night -- was an occasion of great merriment, and was considered especially appropriate as a date for balls and dancing, as well as for weddings. On 12th Night, Great Cake was prepared, consisting in two giant layers of fruitcake, coated and filled with royal icing. Custom dictated that the youngest child present cut and serve the cake and whoever found the bean or prize in the Twelfth Night cake was crowned "King of the Bean" similar to the European king cake custom.

In Norway and Sweden, Little Christmas Day refers to January 13 -- twenty days after Christmas -- and is regarded as the day when ornaments must be removed from Christmas trees and any leftover food must be eaten. Somewhat confusingly Christmas Eve is also referred to as "Little Christmas" in Scandinavia.

I didn't include all the worldwide information -- and there's a TON of it! My friend Donna pondhopper (who lives in Spain) has kindly shared interesting traditions from that country, but her blog is 'Friends Only' filtered... You can discover loads of fun stuff just by googling, by the way. I'm fascinated by the customs that surround today and the entire Christmas season. (Or perhaps I should say the Advent and Christmastide periods...) In fact, I'm interested in the HOLIDAY SEASON -- and not just the parts that are Christian-based. So much of this pre-dates Christianity! Well, enough about Epiphany (at least for now).

I haven't felt well today -- still fighting some bug. No treadmill for me today...

Marilyn and I watched "The Biggest Loser" tonight (the new season started). And "Revenge," too! I'm so very glad "Revenge" is back on! I missed it in recent weeks...

Earlier we went to Starbucks for coffee with Rosanna. We took her some Christmas treats -- and some cookies for her dad. I helped her drop them off, and you should have seen his eyes light up when he heard about those cookies! We talked for a couple of hours before finally taking her home (they were closing Starbucks down around us, literally).

Dinner was chili -- where I combined a couple of varieties with some refried beans to make one pot (including diced peppers and seasoning). It actually turned out really good. I was starving by dinnertime, as I hadn't felt hungry most of the day. Hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow...

I've found it cold on and off all day. (brr) But mostly we're dealing with a ton of RAIN here. (sigh) And more expected tomorrow!

I guess that's it for today...

Tags: 2013, christmas, christmas-tree, decorations, dinner, food, grandma-elsie, january-2013, little-christmas, marilyn, mom's-death-day, religion, revenge, rosanna, sick, starbucks, the-biggest-loser, tradition, tv

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