Sunday, January 6, 2013

It's The Epiphany

Today is what's known in the world of Christianity as The Feast of the Epiphany, or "Little Christmas."
There are many versions of the origination of the feast but put simply, it is the twelfth day of Christmas, marking the day that the Magi (the three wise men) arrived at the manger offering their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the new-born child.
As Catholics, we are quite attuned to this story and if the family displayed a creche as part of their Christmas tradition, it would be left up until January 6th to mark the feast of the Epiphany.  A special mass would be said at the parish church and devout Catholics would be sure to attend.
Some families would find small gifts at the foot of the family creche, marking the gift-giving occasion.
Growing up, our family did not do the gift exchange on Little Christmas.
Once I was living on my own, and certainly once my little chickadee was on the scene, I added a creche to my Christmas display, buying the one I use today in 1978.
Sometime around the 10th of December, my daughter and I would carefully set up the creche once the tree was decorated.  We would also start reading her many books about the story of Christmas.
Since Mary and Joseph didn't arrive at the "Inn" until the 24th, they would be placed off in the distance, as though walking toward Bethlehem.  The shepherd would be set further off in the distance since he was "following the star of Bethlehem" and would arrive once the baby was there.  The three wise men were positioned really far away because they were not due to arrive until the 6th of January.
On the 24th of December, Mary and Joseph would arrive at the manger and would be placed inside, but the baby would be "hiding" behind the structure, to be added the following morning.  (The funniest story ever was the year my little chickadee, about an hour after she had been put to bed on Christmas Eve, came tearing downstairs to lie Mary down -- "she was going to have a baby" that night.)
At some point in her young life, my little chickadee convinced me that she should start getting a gift on January 6th.   "It was, after all, Little Christmas," she whined.  So, I would hold back one gift from what she would otherwise have received on Christmas Day and give it to her on January 6th.  Not sure how she figured she was ahead on that one but whatever.
In my current household, the creche still remains on display until this date, (after all, the three wise men have only just arrived this morning) but the "tradition" of offering a gift on January 6th has not prevailed.
Tomorrow, with all original members present and accounted for (although the shepherd is a little worse for wear), the creche will be dismantled, carefully wrapped (I only a few years ago threw away the original packing material) and put away for another year.
And thus will mark the end of Christmas for another season.

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