For some folk, Christmas is all done and dusted, the tree slung out the door and all the festivity finished by Hogmanay. At our house we stretch it just a little bit longer. Today is Epiphany, the date that traditionally marks the arrival of the wise men to visit the infant Jesus, and the revelation of the divine kingship of Christ. Epiphany not something I grew up being aware of, but my dear French husband has brought his traditions into our family and now I love it.
So, on or around this date, he makes a special cake, the 'Galette des Rois', a splendid concoction of puff pastry, ground almounds, sugar and butter - typical of the French to endue spirituality with a amazing creation of patisserie. In it, a china figure is hidden, to represent the Christ-child. Then some crowns are made and a few neighbours invited. The youngest is asked to sit under the table and call out names as the cake is being served (to ensure impartiality). Then the person who finds the china figure becomes the wise man - or woman - who has found Jesus. They are given a crown and asked to choose a companion, who is also given a crown.
There isn't really anything terribly spiritual about it all, but is a simple gathering of friends, devoid of commercialisation, that we really enjoy. It seems to be a right way to round off the Christmas season, without too much fuss or bother, and with a continuing nudge to remember Christ come among us.
And it has to be said, we find ourselves in need of meetings with our neighbours, as the Highlands experience the coldest, snowiest winter for...who knows? But it is very chilly, and the snow just keeps on coming and coming. Today was supposed to be the start back to work...but instead, my beloved busied himself with digging us out (again!) and improvising some shoes for a donated pair of cross-country skis. Tomorrow perhaps. But the sun shone, the frost sparkled and it was glorious. A true Epiphany.
And I know, I am supposed to take the decorations and the tree down. But who makes these traditions? We still need it to brighten us up on the house-bound days. The needles are holding, the candles still burning and we welcome all the light and beauty that is ours.