Friday, January 06, 2017
Christmas Traditions: Old Christmas Day
Today is January 6. Old Christmas Day. What's that? Well, let me tell you a bit about it.
Old Christmas Day is very much a part of my life and history, but I honestly never really knew why it was important. It just was. My family is of British origin, and we are Newfoundlanders, so I imagine those facts have something to do with it. It's our tradition. Old Christmas Day was always acknowledged, although there was no particular celebration surrounding it in our home. It was more the official end of Christmas, the time to take down the tree and store the decorations for another year.
The most salient fact about Old Christmas Day for me growing up was that it was considered bad luck to take down your tree any earlier. I have never questioned this. Much like I've never questioned why it's bad luck to turn your calendar to a new month before that month arrives - it just is! You don't rush things. Particularly not the celebration of something so important as the birth of Christ, I guess.
So, my tree is of course still up. I will take it down this weekend. Once it's safe. I'm not risking bad luck or poor health or disaster in 2017 by ending Christmas early and putting the tree away. (Having an artificial tree certainly helps with this particular tradition. Fire safety and all, you know.)
I actually get all twitchy hearing other people talk about having their tree down by New Year's. EEEP! I know it's crazy, but this tradition and belief is just so deeply-seated in me, it ain't goin' nowhere.
But what is Old Christmas Day actually? Essentially, it is the official end of the Christmas season, and known liturgically as the Feast of the Epiphany. Epiphany celebrates the manifestion or "showing" of God in his son, Jesus, with the visitation of the Three Wise Men. It is the Twelfth Day of Christmas, the 12th day after Christ's birth. If you celebrate Old Christmas Day, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" will not be confusing for you. (I never understood when folks had difficulty figuring out what the 12 days were.)
Although in my family we did not have a specific celebration or activities for Old Christmas Day, traditions do exist. Mummering, or social visiting in disguise, is generally associated with Christmas celebrations in Newfoundland and Labrador, and would often occur for Old Christmas Day. Some traditions include a small gift to children, in remembrance of the gifts of the Magi. Many traditions include a "King Cake," in which would be baked a coin, trinket, or small infant figurine. Whoever received the piece with the prize would look forward to good luck and prosperity in the coming year.
If you are interested in learning a little about Old Christmas Day and Epiphany, you can check out these links as a start:
Old Christmas Day is the final day of the Christmas season, and so all things Christmas remain in my home until that day has passed.
For one last time this year, Merry Christmas! :-)