The 12th day of Christmas, otherwise known as Epiphany

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It has been 15 days since my family gathered at our home after Christmas eve Mass and commemorated the birth of Christ with good food and the opening of presents.

Our house will soon be back to normal — just Connie and I.  For two weeks our house was hustling and bustling with activity — a bit of a mad house at times.

First to arrive home for the holidays was our youngest child Abigail. She flew in from Madison, Wis. on Dec. 20.

Next was our middle child, Ethan and his wife Hillary, also from the capital of the Badger State. They came by car after a visit to Hillary’s sister in Tenn. They knocked on our door just two days before Christmas.

Our house went from two to five adults.

Thank goodness we still have two bedrooms in our finished basement, complete with a bathroom and living area.

For close to two weeks the grocery bill at the Warden household tripled — three young adults in their mid to late 20’s eat a lot more than I remember.

As was our tradition, Jacob and his wife Jess along with my parents came over on Christmas eve to open presents. This year my step-sister and her husband Lillian and Paul Testerot joined us from Tacoma, Wash.

Christmas has not always been the day for gift giving. And is still not in many other countries.

Jan. 6, Epiphany is the day that many Christian nations open gifts and have celebrations.

Epiphany, or the 12th Day of Christmas marks the day the three wise men, kings or Magi visited baby Jesus and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The word ‘Epiphany’ comes to us from the Greeks and means ‘manifestation’. It celebrates the revelation of God in his son as human in Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.

The three Kings (Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar) represent Europe, Arabia and Africa respectively.

In Spain they have colorful parades on Epiphany to commemorate the journey of the three wise men to find the baby Jesus. That same day is when they give Christmas gifts with children writing letters to the Magi on the feast’s eve with their gift requests.

Many other Latin America countries also present their Christmas gifts at Epiphany.

Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic also holds a big parade on Epiphany.

Our friends to the south of America in Mexico celebrate the holiday with Rosea de Reyes (King’s bread), a sweet bread baked in a ring to resemble a crown, with a baby Jesus figurine hidden inside to signify the need to hide from King Herod.

On the eve of Epiphany is when Italian children wake up to find gifts and candy.

In Ireland, Epiphany is sometimes called ‘Nollaig na mBean’ or Women’s Christmas. Traditionally the women get the day off and men do the housework and cooking.

It is customary for Christians in many localities to remove their Christmas decorations on Epiphany Eve (twelfth night). If you don’t you are supposed to leave them up all year or encounter bad luck during the coming year.

Here in America it’s easy to think that Christians around the world celebrate Christmas the same way we do. But they don’t.

Up until the 19th century, Epiphany was more important than Christmas day and was used to celebrate both the three kings’ visit to Jesus and also Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist.

So we have the Magi to thank for the idea of giving gifts on Christmas. My guess is the reason we give gifts here in American on Dec. 24 and 25 is so the stores get the business before the end of the year.

Now that Epiphany is over we’ve started to take down our Christmas decorations. On Epiphany Eve (Sunday) our outside decorations came down. Everything else will be put away until next year in the coming week.

Ethan and Hillary left for Madison on Saturday.  Abby will be leaving this Sunday to head towards Chicago for a week of research and studies at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory — otherwise known as Fermilab.

We almost have things back to normal. For those of you with young children, enjoy this time.

Thank goodness Jacob and his wife live close.

I can’t wait till they’re all back home again.

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