Epiphany: The Traditional End of the Christmas Season

Once when I was listening to the radio, the announcer stated that he didn’t feel like it was Christmas; he wondered why he felt that way. He thought maybe it was because the weather was warm or because the stores start setting out Christmas decor so early. (If you don’t live in the U.S., you should know that some stores start decorating for Christmas in October! Talk about overkill.)

I feel this angst every year at Christmas time. About the time everyone else stops celebrating Christmas (typically, Christmas Day), I feel like starting! I once felt guilty about this tendency because it made me feel like a non-Christmas person. Being blase about Christmas just isn’t allowed in many of my circles!

Then, I learned that the song “12 Days of Christmas” is actually about the period between Christmas Day and Epiphany, January 6. During the Advent season leading up to Christmas, people prepared through fasting and prayer. Only after this season of preparation did they begin celebrating the birth of the Christ child and the Second Advent of Jesus. This means that, historically, the celebratory aspect of the holiday began after Christmas Day!

Now, I somehow doubt that I’m going to change the way Christmas is currently celebrated in the U.S. I’m afraid “that horse is already out of the barn,” as my grandma would say. However, it’s freeing to know that my tendency to slowly build toward Christmas Day and then let the celebration continue past December 25 is not just a strange personal quirk! (I have enough of those without adding this one to the list.)

These days, if my Christmas tree does not go up on Thanksgiving weekend and come down on Christmas Day, all is well! If the days before Christmas are more reflective and less frenzied, all is well! If I start singing Christmas carols later than most, all is well! I now know that I’m joining with the host of believers who have gone before me, and my current western liturgical brothers and sisters, by celebrating Christmas until the Wise Men come (Epiphany).

Now I just need to learn how to bake a “King’s Cake!” I’m sure that my family won’t complain about adding that tradition to the end of our Christmas season. (Click HERE to see some awesome photos of 2014 Epiphany celebrations from around the world!)


Photo by Keith Williamson