Happy 12th Day of Christmas, or Twelfth Night! Today’s gift is two more Christmas-related holidays coming up. Yes, you heard that right. Endless Christmas! And yes, Shakespeare’s play is named after tonight.
Today is the last official “day of Christmas,” while tomorrow is a related holiday, called Epiphany, or Tres Reyes in many Spanish-speaking countries and communities. Epiphany celebrates the story of the Magi (also known as the Three Kings) visiting the baby Jesus. You can read about it in the Bible book of Matthew chapter 2. It’s called Epiphany, which means “revelation,” because it celebrates when Jesus was “revealed” to the gentile (non-Jewish) world.
Tonight is a special night in many countries as Epiphany festivities begin, and include things like children leaving out their shoes to be filled with gifts or goodies by the Three Kings. Sound familiar? In Germany, some children leave out their shoes at night on December 5 for St. Nicholas to fill them overnight, in time for the saint’s official day on the 6th. Funny that these traditions are exactly a month apart! Anyway, December 25 is definitely not the only day to get presents!
Some Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate Epiphany a bit later due to following the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian one. This also means that their Christmas day is coming up, on January 7. Most people who celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas and Epiphany following the Gregorian one will take down their Christmas decorations tonight or tomorrow, but I plan to leave mine up until Eastern Orthodox Christmas day is over. I’ll take any excuse I can get to stretch out Christmas a bit longer this year! Actually, from what I’ve found online, there’s a tradition in some places that if you don’t take down your decorations by tonight, then you have to wait until the next holiday, Candlemas. Candlemas is on February 2, and celebrates when Mary took Jesus to be purified at the temple, according to Jewish law. You can read about it in the Bible book of Luke chapter 2.
Know what else is cool about Candlemas? It, along with Epiphany and Christmas, have been celebrated since many, many centuries ago. And there’s a primary document about it from a female pilgrim in the 4th century. No, not the kind of “pilgrims” we think of here in the USA (Puritans on the Mayflower eating turkey, etc.), but a person who traveled to a place considered holy in their religion. Etheria (also spelled Egeria, Eucheria, and Aetheria) was a Spanish nun who traveled to the Middle East in most likely the late 300s, and wrote about her experiences there, including celebrating Candlemas with Christians in the area. So cool that a woman traveled there in those early times, and wrote about it! (And I’m excited to wrap up this 12 Days of Christmas series with a woman’s journey!) Here are some of the places I found information for today’s post.
For today’s prayer, let us pray for unity. I know we all have different views of what that should look like, and that’s okay. But let’s pray for God to guide us all, so we can be in unity about the things that are important in our communities and our world. Thank you.
Thank you for joining me in this 12 Day journey of stretching out Christmas. I’ve tried to spread some encouragement, inspiration, and some laughter (which we all need in these dark times). You’ve all blessed me with your comments, whether left on here or sent to me in private messages. I don’t blog very often, so this 12-day blitz was a stretching experience for me. But I enjoyed it, and I hope you did, too. Good night, and Merry Christmas! And happy Epiphany/Three Kings Day tomorrow!