Epiphany Day (Also know as Twelfth Night, Three Kings’ Day)
When I saw this suggested on the website holidaysforeveryday.com, I was more than a little confused. Epiphany Day? How could such an idea possibly work? An epiphany is a sudden relisation of something, and thus isn’t something that is possible to plan. Such boundaries would make Epiphany Day a rather lost cause…was it perhaps a celebration of epiphanies? I thought I should look this one up, and what the day celebrated was the last thing I expected.
I’m not a Christian person, but even so, I found it weird that I had never heard of the religious holiday Epiphany Day. It is supposedly the day that the three wise men visited the baby Jesus Christ, twelve days after his birth (The moment I read the twelve days thing was a big ahhhhhhh as I simultaneously realized what the twelve days of Christmas were for). The many Christmas songs and stories of my youth left me with the impression that the wise men followed a star on the night of the birth of Jesus…not twelve days later. Apparently I was severely misled: The three kings, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar see the star on the night of Christ’s birth, and then follow it for twelve days before they actually get there.
It also celebrates the baptism of the religious figure, and a lot of churches even have special services on this day.
It is quite a big celebration in some countries, so much so that in some places the three wise men bring the children gifts as opposed to our figure of Santa Clause. The most awesome example I’ve read is that children in Spain fill their shoes with food for the horses of the three wise men to eat on Epiphany eve, and awake to find the straw or grain to be replaced with lollies or gifts. In Romania it appears to be more serious, with an Epiphany Eve Black Feast, which means no eating or drinking (except water) from sunrise until sunset, and means purification of the people.
This day is the end of the Christmas period, and often means the taking down of the Christmas tree, accompanied by “plundern”, which is the raiding of the tree. This is when children take down and keep sweets that were hung in the tree during Christmastime (I always wondered where that weird tradition came from.).
I learnt something very new from this holiday, and I hope you did too. I’ll celebrate by taking down my Christmas tree and pretending not to be a cheating atheist, reaping the benefits of Christmas without the religious commitment. ;P
In a rather more bizarre tradition, men in the town of Bulgaria jump into a lake in order to retrieve a wooden cross – legend decrees the man who first grabs it shall be healthy throughout the next year…provided he doesn’t get sick from that lake – it’s winter there! Yikes :O
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