The Christmas decorations are all packed away, except for the nativity scene. I leave it up until January 5th., the twelfth day of Christmas (depending on how you count), the day when the wise men visited the Baby Jesus with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. This is just one of the traditions that has become part of my holiday celebration. And perhaps it is among the most important.
You see, I was “born in the boot.” For those of you who have no idea what that means, I am a Louisiana girl. And goodness knows that folks in bayou country honor their customs like nobody else. The twelfth night always heralds the Mardi Gras season, which begins with the sharing of a king cake, a round confection of cinnamon-flavored dough. (It can get fancy, but I am a purist.) At informal gatherings throughout the area, folks share the cake, anxious to discover whose piece has the plastic baby (symbolizing the infant Jesus) which has been baked inside. In some circles, the “winner” is named king or queen for the day. In others, he or she is obliged to throw the next party. Regardless, it is festive and fun.
The holiday is actually practiced worldwide, going back to Medieval times, although not so much in modern America. However, we are all familiar with the idea, having sung the song about the twelve gifts given by a true love on the days following Christmas, even if the last one wasn't a cake. See? It all makes sense, doesn’t it?
And on the subject of gifts, I have a few that still have to be delivered to friends that I didn’t get to see during the busy holiday. As I removed them from under the tree, I was reminded that instead of being late with my holiday cheer, perhaps I was right on time. Many generations ago, Christmas was a holy day for Cajun families. There was a feast to be shared, certainly, but there was also church and the singing of carols. The old folks thought that the emphasis was to be placed the birth of Our Savior, the celebration of His birthday, and so, the exchanging of gifts took place on New Year’s Day instead. It extended the holiday, but it also changed the focus to the true meaning of Christmas. It is an interesting idea, Perhaps in this commercialized world, where marketing is king, we have forgotten Who truly is sovereign.
I don’t know about you, but once the holiday hoopla is over, the joyful season coming to an end, I feel a little down. I don’t enjoy the steamed broccoli or water with lemon, nearly as much as the cookies and wine. I miss the visits from friends and family whose company seems all the sweeter during this special time of year. I live in Georgia now, and January means “business as usual.” It is predictable, boring.
I carefully wrap each piece of my nativity scene, which feels like I am placing a period at the end of the holiday sentence, writing the last chapter in a worthy book. It makes it final, a seasonal door closed until next year. That makes me a little sad, especially now, when each of these occasions is important to me.
This is the time when I miss my homeland most of all. For there, once the Christmas tinsel is tucked away, the party is just beginning. Maybe it is time to start that custom here. The fun is wherever you make it, right?