“Epiphany” – Christian feast day commemorating the visit of the Magi.
I grew up in a family that celebrated Christmas and celebrated it well. We waited for the right time to start putting up the Christmas tree and ornaments; usually middle of December and hung on to its spirit for as long as we can—until Epiphany. It was only then that we pulled down the tree and finally stopped playing the Christmas carols. Epiphany was the first Sunday of January, but in the 1970s, the Roman Catholic Church fixed it to January 6; but other sects still follow the movable first Sunday of January.
But that is not how it works anymore. Christmas ‘begins’ as early as September when shopping malls start playing Christmas carols. Imaging what is like when November comes around in the Philippines when all the ghoulish Halloween displays are set up in malls with Christmas carols playing in the background. It climaxes on December 25 and the day after, they start pulling down the displays, setting things up for the New Year, now sounding like a different holiday; putting this subtle wedge between “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”. And the day after New Year, they are setting up for Valentine’s Day; no one remembers Epiphany except for maybe a devout few in the Roman Catholic Church and even fewer in the rest non-Catholic community.
The rest of the world sees the season for opportunities in shopping discounts and partying. Gift giving feels like an excuse to spend more money. Tis the season driven by consumerism.
But I choose to go another way.
I still do not put-up decorations or play Christmas carols until sometime in December and refuse to declare Christmas is over just because the marketing spiel has now been changed to New Year or Valentine’s Day.
I choose to go by another way—one that is not driven by an artificial demand to consume but to celebrate life in its natural simplicity. This market driven culture takes us back to the original temptation where the evil one hinted of an inadequacy that can be filled by eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil—and then we will be as cool as God (Genesis 3:5).
The fact is, we were made in the image of God—and were therefore as cool as he is—but now having been convinced otherwise we are being pulled by our noses by the shopping malls that we are not doing enough to show love unless we buy something and celebrate things according to their timing.
The real gift giving happened on Epiphany when the Magi gave their offerings of gold, incense, and myrrh (face it, the shepherds did not really have anything much to offer). On Epiphany, I celebrate and contemplate the coming of Jesus as much as I do on Christmas Day.