This weekend was Epiphany and we celebrated in high style at the Adler Manse. The lovely Mrs. Adler is responsible for first bringing this holiday to my attention a few years ago and I owe her unending thanks; at the very least, a new copy of her Madeline L'Engle poetry that G felt must be mutilated with an ink pen. (She definitely has the courage of her convictions.)
In former times, (I sound like an ESL German person) I thought Advent was the name of a kind of calendar, and I thought epiphanies were merely synonymous with "eureka!", with vague religious overtones. I grew up pretty low-church, meeting in a school gym, with a rickety overhead projector that featured songs written in transparency marker, the guitar chords usually included. It was like camp, but I didn't know that then. It was just church. I liked it. All the essentials were there, and I managed to walk away, more or less, from my church upbringing with 4 important ideas:
1) Everything (in the created order) is amazing & beautiful.
2) God made everything.
3)God knows who I am
4)He loves me anyway,( and very much.)
And it was these 4 things that worked on me and changed me intrinsically when I first moved away from home. I was living in Hawai'i: 18 years old, bored, desperately homesick, and away from any Christian influence for the first time. Also I was- finally- a licensed driver. So I drove around, alone, and quiet (this was a first too) and over time the above 4 points worked their way into me through the blue sky and green sea, the red dirt and jagged mountain outlines of Kaua'i. I was undone. I am still undone.
Since then I have added things to the scaffold of my faith-things I've found while nosing around in old books, old churches, and old friends. A lot of hymns and poetry (thank you John Donne) mainly, plus some different types of worship, not to mention indulgences, hair shirts, foot-washing and snake-wrangling.
High Holy Day
It feels a bit like I've tried to squeeze everything I can out of Christmas; it's all feasting and revelry and bells and smells and then it's gone. And I resent any little bit of time that all the other stuff (the cultural parts of Christmas) takes from my feasting....("Excuse me? You want us to go to your Candy Cane Fairy Queen Light Parade? Do you know that this is our High Holy Feast Day of the year?".....like I'd really say that. But still.) By the time Epiphany comes around, things have died down a little, I'm casting around for something to do and I am glad to take up Epiphany or 'Little Christmas', as the Irish call it.
The holiday is officially on January 6, and Twelfth Night is actually Epiphany Eve, that is, twelve days after Christmas Eve. The word 'epiphany' really means manifestation and some churches celebrate Jesus' first miracle, or his baptism. However, for most churches around the world Epiphany refers to his revelation to the Magi, and so to the Gentile world (that's me!)
It's such a mellower version of Christmas, and it's totally under the radar of the Christmas Machine. So you can actually just celebrate it without any pressure from the shops to buy their Telly Tubby Wise Men, or Bratz Epiphany Slut-Queens.
This holiday has strong Mexican Catholic influences, and since SC (and California in general) has such a strong Mexican American presence, we had a deep well to draw from, including an enormous King Cake, which is a Mexican cake with little plastic baby Jesus' baked in (baked-in Goodness!) Our little babies were white and pot-bellied, sort of swollen-bellied aliens, victims of some horrible Martian famine......
We made crowns, read poetry and sang all 300 verses of 'We Three Kings', and ate lots of Turkish Delight ("Full of Eastern Promise!"). Erin couldn't resist buying Milky Way bars and Starburst-the party was star-themed, as well as vaguely Middle-Eastern. What fun. I love my friends, now even more that they are willing to wear goofy hats and celebrate obscure holidays. I just can't wait for Maundy Thursday!