Wednesday, January 06, 2016

An Epiphany family tradition

Jacob, having just successfully burned his branch
Photo by Subie Green, with Phil green in the background
It’s almost eerie to me the number of people I see on Facebook and in emails who are eager to bid 2015 goodbye and anxious to welcome 2016, with the belief that it will be a whole new year, a whole new chance at health and happiness. I count myself among those, for 2015, as I’ve said before, was not a particularly happy year for me. So I join the ranks, but it makes me wonder just what so bad was going on in 2015.

Tonight is Epiphany, marking the arrival of the Wise Men with gifts for the baby Jesus. We have a strange family custom which doesn't seem to share much with the Bibical story. When I was a child, we had a neighbor who was an adopted aunt to me. She would invite us to their house on Twelfth Night to burn a branch of evergreen. Auntie E. was always elegantly dressed, usually in a hostess gown, and served luscious treats, though now I can’t remember what they were. I just remember it as a formal occasion, and one I treasured. The tradition she fostered was that each of us threw a small piece of greens on to the fire and made a secret wish for the new year. Of course, you couldn’t tell anyone what your wish was.

I’ve carried that tradition over to my family. My kids looked forward to it as children, and now I carry it on with Jordan and her family and a couple of neighbors. Tonight we did it as happy hour with snacks. I can’t remember from year to year what order we do it in, but tonight it was oldest to youngest. So I threw the first small branch in—it didn’t light but Jordan pushed it in until it blazed, so I guess my wish will come true. There were six of us, and each followed by age—with great cheers when a branch blazed immediately. The last of course was Jacob, who enjoys this immensely. When I look at the photo of him above, I think what a rich tradition he is growing up with--not just Epiphany but almost ass aspects of his life.

Me, with Phil's seeing eye dogs, one retired--gentle giants
Sophie, meanwhile, was a pill, peed on the floor right in front of me
I think it was called "Notice me"
Photo by Subie Green
I guess whether or not you believe in this small ceremony—I have no idea of its origins or even if they go beyond my aunt—but maybe wishes do come true. Anyway, I hope for all who look toward 2016 as a better year, that that wish indeed does come true.


Kitty Bartlett said...

January 6th was always our day/night to undo Christmas decorations, as a child & as an adult with our children, & put away the nativity. It was the 12th night after Christmas, for the Wise Men so we sang the 'Twelve Days of Christmas' or played the record, My mother, raised in Pennsylvania, said they did not decorate their tree until Christmas eve. The teens would help friends & neighbors decorate their trees & homes while the children slept so Christmas morning was a BIG surprise! & the teens caroled everywhere they went.
Kitty Conn Bartlett

Judy Alter said...

What a lovely tradition! Thanks for sharing. Today is the day I begin undecoratiing.

Anonymous said...

what a lovely tradition, Judy, and I think it's so nice that you and your family carry on with this. We might even take this on, if you dont mind. In our family the Three Wise Men get removed from the Crib set when we lock up the house and go to bed - the rest goes back into their boxes the following day.
Be optimistic - 2016 can only turn out better than the previous year. Carina

Judy Alter said...

I'd be pleased if you adopted the tradition. Sort of like spreading the joy.