And so, I’m back. Last night was the twelfth night of Christmas otherwise known as Epiphany Eve. A night that is celebrated all over Christendom. It marks the end of the Christmas season. The rest and the revelries. It’s when you’re sposed to take your Christmas tree down although mine never lasts that long.
No one pays much attention to the Epiphany in my part of the western world but in Europe it has long been celebrated as an important occasion. The bookend to Christmas day. Officially it’s meant to acknowledge the three wise men’s visit to the baby Jesus but there are many strange traditions associated with the Epiphany which make you question its origins.
For a long time in England people used to go door to door on this day performing comic plays about birth and resurrection and share a ritual drink of apple cider. In Italy a lady witch called La Befana brings presents to the children. She was doing so long before Santa turned up there in his red suit. In Germany houses are blessed by chalk markings over doorways. In some parts of Ireland it’s called Women’s Christmas. A day when men take over the household chores and children give presents to their mums and grandmas (I always knew I liked the Irish, lol.) In many countries cakes are made with a bean hidden inside. Whoever finds the bean becomes ‘king’ or ‘queen’ for the day and in Poland this person puts on a paper crown (ah, this explains where the paper hat tradition comes from, finally!) In England it was considered lucky to cook a tart on this day with 13 different types of jam. Note: The Epiphany is actually 13 days after Christmas Eve which is when Europeans celebrate the Christmas festival and 13 is a number associated with witches and superstition.
To my mind this is all evidence for the pagan origins of the Epiphany celebration, and by extension, Christmas. Mind you, I’m not a big fan of the word pagan which is defined as a person holding beliefs not of the main world religions. This suggests these traditions spring from a source that wasn’t well thought through. The comprehensive and consistent nature of these traditions across Europe says otherwise. Just because we don’t understand them doesn’t mean the religion of ancient Europe wasn’t a significant one.
Which brings me to this card…
The Moon: What lies beneath.
Beneath the celebrations and traditions of Christianity and other religions in Europe lies evidence of an Ancient European religion. A tradition which I suspect Tarot cards also grew out of. And that’s why I like to celebrate the ’12’ days of Christmas. Which I do by lying around and reading lots of novels because my favourite things are ‘r’ words: reading, riting and resting. (I’ve mentioned I’m an introvert right? My kids prefer to party like ‘normal’ people.)
How did you celebrate Christmas this year?