We love more reasons to celebrate during the Christmas season so coming into the 12 Days of Christmas and Epiphany became meaningful to us when introduced to Martha Zimmerman’s book, Celebrating the Christian Year when the children were very little. We’ve so enjoyed working through this yearly calendar of Christian dates, bringing traditions to our home and giving us many reasons to keep celebrating through the entire year. As Martha says, “At Christmas we celebrate Jesus–the Lamb of God. Epiphany celebrates Christ the King!” So we like to call this special occasion All Kings’ Day.
January 6th, twelve days after Christmas is the date marked for recognizing the Kings bringing gifts to Jesus. And because the book sums up the symbolism of the gifts better than I can say, I’ll just quote right from it:
“The gifts He was given revealed His true identity. Gold: He is the King of Kings! Frankincense: He is our High Priest and we should offer Him our prayers and praise! Myrrh: He was born to die! When you consider what it was that God gave us–the gift of himself–this is a day for “love gifts,” the gift of yourself to the ones you love. It is a time to rededicate yourself to the Lord.”
And because of this, we began to give love gifts on January 6th (or the weekend closest to the date) to the children, declaring to them as we handed them over, “We give this gift to you because the wise men brought gifts to Jesus AND because we love you.”
All Kings’ Day cake (recipe below) quickly became a favourite one to bake with a coin wrapped in parchment placed inside the dough. The one who finds the coin is the King for the day, or as in our celebration this year, received an added surprise gift presented to unwrap. After eleven people were served out cake, not one of us had that coin, so seconds were dished out (poor us), and Harrison, the youngest crew member was the lucky winner of the surprise gift and deemed King for the night.
This is also a time when we pull the traditional British Christmas crackers and don our King hats around the dinner table. Growing up, this was reserved either for Christmas Day, Boxing Day, or New Year’s dinner (or sometimes all three…we really liked pulling crackers in our British-turned-Canadian household). Seems those companies are saving on paper these days because those hats didn’t come near to fitting most of the adults around the table. But we got a few pics in there before they either slid off our heads or were torn quickly.
And as we learned, traditionally the Twelfth Night parties were an opportunity to take down the Christmas tree. Often we can’t wait until the 6th to do this in our house. I was on a cleaning roll after Christmas as you may have seen in a prior post, so the decorations were off by January 1st, and the tree ready for the fire pit by January 2nd. Our plan was to burn the tree between tea time with All Kings’ Day cake and Turkey Pot Pie dinner hour, but we had a lot of rain the day prior, and the mix for the night was rain/snow/ice, so not a good combo for fires or wanting to be outside.
Though the children opted for outdoor fun (aren’t they so Canadian?!), the adults remained indoors playing Boggle, Skip-Bo, and Spoons. If you’ve never played Spoons before you really MUST try this one. All you need are a deck of cards and one spoon less than the people at the table; rather like playing musical chairs, and no less aggressive. It’s a must for group gatherings, and one you quickly learn of the competitive ones amongst you.
I finished off with a pic of the youngest’s surprise gift drawings she did for her siblings. None of us knew she had this in mind to give something to each of her siblings to declare her love for them on this special day. It was very sweet and touching to see her sneak away after opening her love gift from us and return with these All Kings’ Day gifts of her own to hand out.
So what traditions do your family hold to during the twelve days of Christmas and Epiphany? I’d love to hear them. One new one to me (and I just love hearing of other traditions world-wide!), was a blog I have just learned of called Almost Bananas. I was drawn to the fact that Naomi is Canadian and had lived in the U.S. for a few years (just like me), has four children (just like me), a set of twins in there (just like I have), ferments things all over her counter (just like I…used to), and is now living in Slovakia (just like…, okay, she has me on that one). She has recently posted some Slovakian traditions for her twelve days of Christmas that I will share in a link here (or click above on the site name) for anyone who is interested in popping over to her site.
So we end our twelve days of Christmas celebrations with the declaration of Christ as King of Kings! So I leave you with a verse from the famous Christmas carol, “What Child is This?” by William C. Dix:
So bring him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, King, to own him;
The King of Kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone him.
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing,
Haste, haste to bring him laud,
The babe the son of Mary
Recipe for All Kings’ Day Cake:
1 pkg yeast
3 Tbsp warm water
1 C milk
1 stick butter
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla (I use 1 tsp)
grated rind of 1 lemon (about 2 tsp)
2 tsp lemon juice
1 egg white
4 C sifted flour
1/2 C raisins (or dried cranberries)
1/2 C chopped pecans
1 tsp cinnamon
1 C confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp water
Dissolve yeast in 3 T water; heat 1 C milk with 1 stick butter; combine milk and butter mixture with 1/2 C sugar and 1 tsp salt in large bowl.
Stir well and add yeast mix
Add 1/2 tsp vanilla, lemon rind, 2 tsp lemon juice
Beat in 2 eggs plus the egg white of another egg
Stir entire mixture until eggs are mixed in
Add 2 C flour, 1/2 C raisins (or dried fruit), 1/2 C chopped pecans, 1 tsp cinnamon.
Stir well until smooth
Slowly add 2 more C flour; mix well.
Knead dough; cover in greased bowl until 2x the size (about 2 hrs…though it only took one today…in my rush to get it done on time)
shape into a ring with a hole in the centre; place a wrapped coin in the dough.
Let rise 2 more hours (or one if you’re in a rush as I was)
350 F for 40 mins
For the icing: 1 C confectioner’s sugar with 2 tsp lemon juice and a couple tsps of water; spoon over partially cooled cake; can decorate with candied fruit.