I’ve been wanting to do something to celebrate the end of the Christmas season for a few years now and this time we finally pulled it off. There are a few different approaches you can take for having a party this time of year. First off you can have a 12th night party which is on (you guessed it!) the twelfth night of Christmas.
You can also do an Epiphany party which is technically the day after the 12th night of Christmas but it seems reasonable to celebrate it any time between the 12th night and the following Sunday. Epiphany in the church is a celebration of Christ’s first revelation to the gentiles in the form of the star appearing to the Three Wise Men.
And then on the off chance that you have some connection with Eastern Europe where they still use the Julian Calendar you can also celebrate what we referred to in my childhood as “Greek Christmas” which is on January 7th as far as I can tell. For our party we didn’t really specify but here are the things we did.
First we did not do dinner. Let’s face it, a dinner party is a lot of work and a lot of expense. After Christmas we just weren’t up for it. Instead we made a King’s cake. Which is typically a sort of sweet yeast bread rolled with cream cheese filling. I was out of cream cheese and didn’t have time to wait for a cake to rise so I made a simple cinnamon swirl bunt cake and though I didn’t try it everyone said it was good and there were no leftovers.
Don’t forget to hide a baby in the cake! This was a tradition familiar to us after spending many winters in Mexico (did you know that kids in Mexico often get more gifts from The Three Kings on Kings Day than from Santa on Christmas?). Whoever gets the baby is supposed to make the tamales for the next feast but we didn’t hold anyone to it. A more modern tradition is to hide three babies (you can substitute a large bean, or use a fig like I did, the little plastic babies are hard to find, I know it sounds super weird) and whoever gets a bean gets to wear a crown, one for each king.
Second make Wassail, a hot mulled cider which is the traditional drink for this time of year. We had Brandy to add to ours and then hot chocolate, not to add, just for another option.
Third make Magi crowns. I found the most basic crown pattern on the internet, print it, cut it out (two at a time, it went fast) stapled two together, spray painted them gold and voila. I picked up some jewel stickers at the dollar store and the kids used them to decorate their crowns. This was a great souvenir, kept the kids surprisingly engaged, and no one got injured with the stapler.
Fourth make Magi gifts. We sent the kids home with three versions of DIY Play-dough mixed with glitter for gold and the others fragranced with frankincense and myrrh essential oils (actually I didn’t have mhyrr so I used Ylang-Ylang and Lavender, no one knew the difference).
One more add on which was an unexpected treat that my husband whipped up was a lively family sing along of the first verse of “Here we go a-wassailing” which apparently is a song about poor folks going door to door drinking warm beer, and the “12 Days of Christmas” which was a hit with the kids.
Life has been hard for many of my friends and family this holiday season. And for some who have had a recent loss Christmas felt like a very low place. Gathering for ongoing celebrations is an important part of living and grieving and healing together. This party took us about half a day’s work to pull together and the memories of time spent together finding babies in cakes is totally worth it. So here is to the 12th Night and Epiphany and Greek Christmas and hoping that in 2017 we will always be able to find something to celebrate.