Happy Twelfth Night

“Food and drink are the center of the celebrations in modern times, and all of the most traditional ones go back many centuries. The punch called wassail is consumed especially on Twelfth Night and throughout Christmas time, especially in the UK, and door-to-door wassailing (similar to singing Christmas carols) was common up until the 1950s. Around the world, special pastries, such as the tortell and king cake, are baked on Twelfth Night, and eaten the following day for the Feast of the Epiphany celebrations. In English and French custom, the Twelfth-cake was baked to contain a bean and a pea, so that those who received the slices containing them should be respectively designated king and queen of the night’s festivities.” – Wikpedia

The front door looks empty without its Christmas wreath and garland, and so, too, the widows without their (battery operated) candles. The decorations have been stowed away in the garage until they come alive again at the end of the year.

I won’t be taking ale or even moonshine from door  to door while singing:

Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

If I did, the cops would probably show up, and/or people would appear at their front doors with shotguns to inform us to “shut the hell up.” Either way, those consequences don’t seem very festive.

However you celebrate the beginning of the year, may you find hope and happiness in 2021 and all the traditional and/or personal epiphanies you need to ensure this year is better than last year.



Every year we go through this: Christmas Day is the First Day of Christmas

Retailers love countdowns, one of them being their fake 12 days of Christmas that ends on December 25th. This helps sales, no doubt. But I cringe when I see it because it’s a marketing strategy that pre-empts the reality of the holiday.

Dear retailers: If you need to usurp a holy countdown, use Advent (November 29 – December 24.)

This brings us to December 25th, the first day of Christmas in most traditions, the days that old song refers to.

You probably sing the song at one party or another during “Twelvetide,” and perhaps you know the meaning of the verses:

The Twelve Days, of course, lead up to Twelfth night, the day when in most traditions, the greenery comes out of the house. My neighbors are used to our Christmas lights staying on through the 5th of January. The following day is Epiphany, the day the wise men visited the Christ Child.

I suppose many people sleep through Epiphany if they continue the tradition of the Twelfth Night party where everyone gets drunk:

This looks kind of expensive, so we don’t throw a party. However, if you’re throwing a party, please let us know. The first thing, though, is knowing when the Twelve Days of Christmas begin and end.


Twelfth Night Thoughts

“A real artist is the one who has learned to recognize and to render… the ‘radiance’ of all things as an epiphany or showing forth of the truth.”

– Joseph Campbell

Twelfth Night, the twelfth day of Christmas, is also known as Epiphany Eve. Many traditions surround this time, but many of them consider Twelfth Night to be January 5th with Epiphany celebrated on January 6th. Some refer to Epiphany as Three Kings Day, and see it as a celebration (primarily) of the visit of the Magi and the revelation of the incarnation of God in Jesus. Others link the day to Jesus’ baptism.

The symbolism here would take multiple posts to discuss and, regardless of one’s church or sect or denomination, the meaning, I believe, transcends temporal orgnizations and faiths and instead reminds us of the most important epiphany each of us can have: the realization of the divine within ourselves.

Wikipedia Photo

Originally, when people spoke of having an epiphany, the default value of the experience was that the insight they found came from the god of their hearts. Now, such realizations are often considered to be of a logical or scientific or psychological origin. It’s all the same, I think.

As writers, our best work seems to come from multiple epiphanies, from having our fingers or thoughts on the pulse of the universe and the channels through which cosmic energies flow.

Or, perhaps you are more comfortable with the idea of inspiration or having a real or figurative muse. Looking at it that way seems less presumptuous!

My muse tells me to follow the old traditions and to take down my Christmas decorations today or otherwise be stuck leaving them up until Candlemas. It’s hard enough explaining to neighbors why our decorations are up longer than most people’s; it would be more difficult if our lights and greenery were up until February 2. The decorations, when they go up, and when they’re put away are guidelines, not rules, for the paths we’re following.

Perhaps the decorations symbolize a person’s readiness to discover and interpret the radiance of all things.





Happy holidays however you celebrate the season

I still say “Merry Christmas” to most people because it’s hard to step away from one’s upbringing and switch over to the more generic “happy holidays.”

We put up our Christmas Tree on the Solstice and leave it up throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas. While I don’t expect everyone else in the neighborhood to leave all their decorations up until Twelfth Night, I feel bad when I see people throwing out their trees on Christmas Day as though they can’t wait to get them out of the house.

Several days ago, I posted a Steve Allen quote on my Facebook page, “If there is a God, the phrase that must disgust him is – holy war.” I don’t think any war is holy, nor do I think all the wars of words about appropriate and inappropriate holiday celebrations are holy–or even necessary.

We are free to believe what we want to believe.  I think we should be able to believe that without being attacked by the local newspaper, the homeowners’ association, thugs from ISIS and other arrogant belief systems, or by ignorant people on Facebook who think “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a rape song. I do draw the line at one faith’s decorations at public buildings or neighbors who put up so many lights their house can be seen from the space station.

Otherwise, it does my heart good to see that in spite of the commercialism, a lot of folks have found something larger than themselves and their government to believe in.

But why should it matter to anyone whether his or her neighbors believe in the same god or not whether they choose to celebrate him or her in a different way? I see no threat in that.

My views are rather eclectic, but due to the prevailing winds about “how people ought to believe,” I keep quiet about them for the most part. I don’t need the hassle. I do like the magic of the season regardless of how others choose to celebrate it. For me, it’s a profound time of the year regardless of the usual sniping about the Christian Church and secular humanity adopting a lot of pagan symbolism. That seems to bother people. I say, “so what?”

I see this as a time of unconditionally giving to others whatever their faith. I hope you have a great holiday season, perhaps with family and/or travel and/or traditions that speak to you and yours.





No, our Christmas decorations aren’t up yet

We like to give each holiday it’s due.

happythanksgiving2015That means Santa knows that if he messes around decorating our house prior to December 1, he’ll be shot.

(Among other things, we don’t celebrate Black Friday, though Small Business Saturday is kind of nice.)

Today still feels like a continuation of Thanksgiving because we’re eating leftovers. My brother and his wife from Florida were here for a week and they just left this morning because they know from experience that driving back to the sunshine state on the Sunday after Thanksgiving is often a nightmare.

We’re thankful they were here.

Tomorrow, we’ll start thinking about our Christmas decorations. As it turns out, a lot of people have already have lighted trees in their windows and various other lighted decorations in their yards.

We start a bit later and keep our Yuletide lights and greenery up until the last day of Christmas on Twelfth Night.

However you celebrate, I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving and won’t be one of those buffoons who throws out his Christmas tree before nightfall on the 25th. (Gee, what’s the rush?)


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of ‘Emily’s Stories,” the Pushcart Prize nominated “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Sarabande,” and “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”