Thursday, January 05, 2012

Januray 5: Epiphany and Holiday Fun Facts & Traditions

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  • The Twelfth Night of Christmas is always on the evening of 5 January, the Twelfth Day can either precede or follow the Twelfth Night.
  • "Twelfth Night" is followed by the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6.
  • Twelfth Night marks the final night of the Christmas season. It is the night before Twelfth Day, known as Epiphany.
  • Epiphany (holiday), a Christian holiday on January 6 celebrating the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus.
  • The greenery & nativity scenes put up at Christmas are taken down at Epiphany. In other cultures these remain up until Candlemas on Feb 2.
  • In the United States / Colorado Manitou Springs, Epiphany is marked by the Great Fruitcake Toss. Fruitcakes are thrown, participants dress as kings, fools etc., and competitions are held for the farthest throw, the most creative projectile device, etc.
  • In Louisiana, Epiphany is the beginning of the Carnival season, during which it is customary to bake King Cakes.
  • What is a King Cake? It is round in shape, filled with cinnamon, glazed white, & coated in traditional carnival color sanding sugar.
  • In 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.
  • On January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany has long been an important celebration in Wales, known there as Ystwyll. In Glamorganshire, a huge loaf or cake was prepared, which was then divided up into three parts to represent Christ, the Virgin Mary and the three Wise Men.
  • Another Welsh custom associated with Epiphany was the Hunting of the Wren. A group of young men would go out into the countryside to capture a wren (the smallest bird in the British Isles after the goldcrest / firecrest). The bird would then be placed in a small, decorated cage and carried around from house to house and shown in exchange for money or gifts of food and drink (if a wren could not be found then a sparrow would have to undergo the ritual.)
  • In England, the celebration is also known as Twelfth Night, 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.
  • In France people eat gâteau des Rois in Provence (made of brioche) or the galette des Rois (puff pastry with almond cream) in the northern half of France and Belgium. This is a kind of king cake, with a trinket (usually a porcelain figurine) or a bean hidden inside. The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket becomes "king" for a day.
  • In the German speaking lands, groups of young people called "Sternsinger" (star singers) travel from door to door. They are dressed as the three Wise Men, plus the leader carrying a star, usually of painted wood attached to a broom handle. Often these groups are four girls, or two boys and two girls for the benefit of singing their songs in four part harmony, not necessarily three wise men at all.
  • Germans eat a Three Kings cake which may be a golden pastry ring filled with orange and spice representing gold, frankincense and myrrh. More often in West Germany and 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.
  • Celebrations in Guadeloupe have a different feel from elsewhere in the world. Epiphany here does not mean the last day of Christmas celebrations, but rather the first day of Kannaval (Carnival), which lasts until the evening before Ash Wednesday. Carnival in turn ends with the grand brilé Vaval, the burning of Vaval, the king of the Kannaval, amidst the cries and wails of the crowd.
  • In parts of southern India, Epiphany is called the Three Kings Festival and is celebrated in front of the local church like a fair. Families come together and cook sweet rice porridge called Pongal.
  • The Irish call Epiphany 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.
  • Epiphany is the time for bonfires in Macedonia, to symbolize the light of Christ. These are very festive gatherings, and hot mulled wine and brandy are served.
Resources: wikipedia links, dictionary, gone-ta-pott.com,



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