The New Year may be upon us, as is the regret of all those Quality Street chocolates, and we have all witnessed how the boxing day sales have left even the grocery stores barren in disarray. However, Christmas isn’t over just yet.
January 6, celebrated in Christian tradition as the Epiphany, marks the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Yes, the long-winded Christmas carol (despite its material-based lyrics) happily does not conform to the mass consumer hype that begins after Halloween and Thanksgiving.
Not to revive any high school Shakespeare nightmares, but the ‘Twelfth Night’ of Christmas or the Eve of Epiphany was traditionally the day that the wreaths and evergreens were taken down and burned. A bonfire seems a more festive way to dispose of the holiday greenery instead of the sight of half-dead Christmas trees, thrown out to the curb when only days before they sat adorned as the celebrity of every Christmas photo. In English folklore, it was believed the greenery used in Christmas decorating acted as a host for spirits during the holiday season. If the burning was not carried out (thus releasing the spirits), it was said to bring agricultural troubles for the coming spring.
Historically in the early Christian church Christmas and the Epiphany were celebrated on the same day. But the birth of Jesus and his baptism (both events in which God revealed himself) were evidently too large an Epiphany (or technically two Epiphanies–that’s a lot of Epiphany) to be celebrated on one day. Like any good feast day, Christian congregations everywhere are celebrating–who could say no to another Christmas-level feast?