Twelfth night will end the Christmas season

Although Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are past, the Christmas season continues until the 12th day after. This day is known as the Epiphany.

It will fall on January 6 and is considered the climax of the Christmas season. Twelfth Night is a Christian religious tradition and is not to be confused with Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

The Day commemorates the revelation of Jesus as the Christ to the Gentiles in the persons of the Magi (the Three Wise Men) and the baptism of the infant Jesus. The important word here is “revelation” since it means the appearance or manifestation of a god, a divine being, or a moment of sudden intuitive understanding, or an experience which reveals such a moment.

Thus it was with the Three Wise Men who followed the star to Bethlehem to deliver gifts to the infant, Jesus, thus acknowledging Him as the Christ and the Son of God. The Three Wise Men came from the Orient, identified as the current Iran and other lands in that area, to deliver gifts which had important symbolisms.

Melchior, the senior of the trio, presented gold as his gift, Gaspar offered incense, while Balthasar gave myrrh, a fragrant resin obtained from plants in his home area. By the delivery of these gifts, the Three Wise Men paid homage to the Christ child. Their names are inscribed in the history of the Christian Church and are always mentioned during the Christmas season.

The end of the Epiphany period is celebrated in various ways in different cultures. There are feasts, gift giving, tree burning rituals and other symbolic rituals. One is the placing of shoes under the tree, signifying a journey. Visitations to friends and family members are also made.

Songs, lyrics, essays, and poems have been written to celebrate the Christmas period. The most popular poem is “The Night Before Christmas,” when “all through the house, nothing was stirring, not even a mouse.” This reveals the traditional feelings about the Christmas season for children with parents smiling smugly. This starts the season.

Another song, written in 1857 by an American minister, John H. Hopkins Jr., starts with “We three kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar, field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star. O star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.”

Other words refer to the gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh and the reasons why the gift was appropriate. The song was sung at a Christmas pageant led by Hopkins. It soon became a standard tune in the Christmas repertoire.

The Magi are men of mystery, hard to accurately identify. They apparently did come from the Orient, but were of a different religion. Later, they were baptized into Christianity and spent time spreading the words of the Gospel. Another part of the mystery is that their purported remains were brought to Constantinople, then to Milan, and finally to a cathedral in Cologne, Germany.

After a short time comes Ash Wednesday, the forty days of Lent, then Good Friday, Easter, and the other Christian periods of worship. Epiphany ends one period at the start of the year and then leads into the others.

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