Monday, January 5, 2009

On the 12th Day of Christmas...

And just when you thought it was over! Since I seem to be the only person I know who has even ever heard of "Little Christmas", I wanted to share this old tradition which might be new to you. Little Christmas, or January 6th, is the day after the 12th day of Christmas, marking the end of the Christmas season. Oh, I know what you are thinking, the twelve days lead up to Christmas, right? Wrong. The twelve days of Christmas come after the big day. Some of us are old enough to remember when the Christmas season did not start the day after Halloween and people used to carry the spirit of Christmas into the New Year. We used to even exchange one last especially precious present on the twelfth night, or January 5th.

According to Wikipedia (and my Irish Catholic mother), Little Christmas, or Nollaig Bheag in Irish, is one of the traditional names in Ireland for January 6, more commonly known in the rest of the world as the Epiphany. It is so called because it was the day on which Christmas Day was celebrated under the Roman calendar, before the adoption of the Gregorian calendar. And, according to my mother, we could take all the ornaments off the tree but the star topper had to stay until January 6th because the Wise Men were still traveling by it's light to Bethlehem. This was also the day we could add the wise men figurines with the rest of the Nativity.

Little Christmas is also referred to as Women's Christmas or sometimes even Women's Little Christmas. It is so called because of the tradition, of Irish men taking on all the household duties for the day and giving their spouses a day off. Most women will either hold parties or go out to celebrate the day with their friends, sisters, mothers, aunts etc. Bars and restaurants usually have a majority female clientele on this night. Children often buy presents for their mothers and grandmothers, and it resembles Mother's Day in this respect.

So maybe next year, you'll remember Little Christmas, leave the light on for the Magi, and have a little get together with your gal pals. Sounds to me like an excellent excuse for a stitch-over!

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