Today is Epiphany, also known as Little Christmas in Spanish speaking and other Christian countries. Our family never celebrated this holy day, but it is significant because it is the day when the three Wise Men brought gifts to the infant Jesus. I often heard people say that they do not take down their Christmas tree until after “Little Christmas.” I enjoy learning about different cultures and their holiday traditions and so did my girls. So, during their first years of school, we celebrated our own holidays as well as learned about what other people were celebrating at or about the same time. This went on for two or three years.
All the holidays were important to my girls. For Halloween we got all the candy and costumes, props and makeup they needed. Then there was Thanksgiving to look forward to and we learned the stories of the pilgrims and Indians. Of course, Christmas was the biggest holiday of them all. We watched all the cartoons and shows for a month, made up lists for Santa, baked cookies, bought and made gifts, wrapped them etc etc etc.
Then my older daughter got the bright idea that we should celebrate Hanukkah too. This was because we watched the Sherri Lewis and Lambchop special about the Festival of Lights and how the little bit of oil lasted for 8 days. I still have the dreidels I bought for the girls to play with and I made potato latkas, but I did not get a menorah or 8 days of presents. I had to draw the line somewhere. After Christmas we were looking into how to celebrate Kwanza. But they soon lost interest in that because there were no gifts involved. And finally, they returned to school after Christmas and got wind of Epiphany, which turned them on to yet another holiday.
I had barely taken down the tree and put away all the ornaments and gifts we had received, when my daughter comes home from school with information about “Little Christmas.” She informs me that Spanish people celebrate the coming of the Wise Men to visit the newborn Jesus. I replied, “Yes, that’s a very nice custom.” Then she asks, “Can we celebrate Epiphany too?” I ask her what is involved. “All we have to do is put out food and water for the camels and the Wise Men will leave us a present.” The fact that there were still presents laying around that she hadn’t even gotten to play with didn’t phase her, she wanted yet another gift from the Wise men. So I said, “Epiphany is tomorrow, I don’t have any camel food to put out and you already got enough presents.” My daughter, who loves to get the last word in, says “we can put out some grass” and her sister also chimed in with a few choruses of “please, please, please.” I gave in, sigh.
I go to my husband and tell him what happened and that I didn’t have any spare gifts for the Wise Men to leave, I already bought everything I could think of for Christmas. Nevertheless, I tried to find a little something to try and make this happen. Fortunately, down in the basement, I had a couple of small things I could wrap up and leave for them. That night, we ripped up some grass from the lawn and put out some water and the next morning they found their small gifts, which paled by comparison to what they had gotten for Christmas.
“Little Christmas” was short lived and we never had to do it again. So was Kwanza. But, the dreidels would come out for a couple of more years, and they would play that little spinning game a few days before Christmas. They have probably forgotten those times by now, but for me the memories of those days are everlasting gifts.