The Twelve Days of Christmas (finally) conclude this weekend with Epiphany, or “Twelfth Night”, marking the arrival of the Three Kings from the East in Jerusalem so that they might adore the baby Jesus. Once again, however, biblical traditions merge with earlier ethnic ones, creating hybrid celebrations and customs. In western Christian culture, Twelfth Night was a big party night before the nineteenth century, the peak of the Christmas season rather than the afterthought that it is today. I’m wondering if that is changing, however: there have always been Epiphany services in churches in our area but this particular year I’ve been invited to three Twelfth Night parties. Maybe people are getting fed up with the sheer consumerism of Christmas Day and refocusing on the social and festive aspects of the holiday season through Twelfth Night.
Two Renaissance views of the Adoration of the Magi: by Hans Memling (c…
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