Red Shoulder Hawk

Red Shoulder Hawk

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Epiphany is for Gentiles

My favorite family Christmas tradition is the Epiphany party. Epiphany, or Little Christmas, is the celebration of the three Kings finding God's little boy in Bethlehem when Jesus was probably 2 years old. I can scarcely imagine Toddler Jesus and three astrologers from the east getting together in whatever small dwelling Joseph had managed to arrange until he could afford to take his family home again. It's the first time non-Jews honor Jesus, so in many ways it feels like a much better holiday to celebrate as a non-Jew. We often consider having Epiphany be our gift giving day (we could take advantage of after-Christmas sales, too).

Getting together on Epiphany means that all the other sides of the family get have grandkids and nieces on Christmas, so it works out really brilliantly.

The high point is the reading of the three Kings. Eleven balloons each hold one verse of the story rolled up very small on a scrap of paper, and all the youngest who can read pop their balloon in turn and stumble over the foreign names, beaming with joy when they finish to look up to a sea of smiling adults and older siblings. Some of these strips of paper are 35 years old now.

Why eleven? There were 7 in our family, and 5 in the family we began this tradition with. So I have to guess that Eileen must have been too young to read at the time. My parents celebrated this tradition with ever increasing groups of people. By the mid 80s, we'd adopted an extended family of about 40 people (we called ourselves the Ranch Families) and Epiphany with the reading of the three Kings from these scraps of paper was the focal point of the party, coming between mom's giant vat of homemade chili and make-your-own sundaes.

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