Our kings have been waiting patiently for today to come. We celebrated Christmas for the last twelve days since Christmas Day. It was definitely a new experience to shift our celebration from before to after the 25th. We moved the kings out of their corner and placed them with their respective nativities. The history of the Twelve Days of Christmas is fascinating. One that developed in northern Europe, where agriculture and winter dominated. Winter was a time to rest, these twelve days a time of feasting and celebration with games, song and dancing. The poor became kings by finding a bean baked in a cake on the twelfth night. Christopher Hill writes about this Holidays and Holy Nights, pointing to the consistency of these mid-winter festivals through the ages, probably from prehistoric times.
Three Kings Day is an official holiday here in Puerto Rico. I've seen more Kings than Santas in people's yards. It is traditional for children to put out hay for the camels the night before. Epiphany is a strange day of the church, as it celebrates the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem, the baptism of Jesus and Jesus' first miracle at the wedding in Cana. In many cultures the celebration of the Magi dominate Epiphany. Psalm 72 prophesied about the Magi coming: The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts, the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay Him homage, all nations shall serve Him (Ps 72:10-11). Isaiah also prophesied saying Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord (Is 60:6).
These men were probably Persian priests, paying homage to this new King of Israel. While the magi had false gods, they held the spiritual wisdom of the Near-Eastern civilization. Hill writes about the theme of magic in this story and that magic has several meanings, beyond spells and charms. "Magic also refers to systems of symbol and ritual that teach deep knowledge of the workings of the spirit. Magic in this sense is the science of the spirit. It teaches how holiness works. Every religion has a body of wisdom like this, and it has nothing to do with superstition or abuse of power... In this sense the wise kings really were magicians." I find this so interesting because we are spiritual souls on this Earth, searching for spiritual knowledge. That is what God placed in us, to be drawn to symbol and ritual that praises him. That is why I find the feasts and celebrations of Liturgical Year so meaningful.
We didn't have a Twelfth Night celebration, but perhaps next year we will with a bean cake, games and feasting.