On the 12th day of Christmas… its time to de-dec the halls and go a wassailing
When: January 6th every year.
Where: Christian countries.
Epiphany is the 12th and last day of Christmas, the day associated with the coming of the Maji (or 3 wise men) with gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh for the baby Jesus.
Its also traditionally time to take down the Christmas tree and other decorations, it being considered bad luck to keep them up after the 6th of January. And time to go a-wassailing – The term evolved from a simple Old English greeting (Norse “ves heil” and Old English “was hál” meaning be in good health or “be fortunate) to its use as a toast in ritualised drinking. The toast “was hail” should be followed by the reply “drink hail”. Wassail also denoted the drink used for the toast.
In France, on Epiphany people eat gâteau des Rois in Provence (or galette des Rois in the northern half of France and Belgium). This is a kind of cake (King cake), with a trinket (usually a little porcelain figurine of a king) or a bean hidden inside. The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket becomes “king” for a day. The tradition of hiding something in a cake or pudding is common in many countries around Christmas and New year. It most likely comes from the Roman festival of Saturnalia.
In many Spanish speaking countries a cake is also baked (Rosca or Roscón is a type of pastry made with orange blossom water and butter, and decorated with candied fruit), containing a baby Jesus or a small toy. Whoever finds the toy must throw a party on February 2nd (Candelaria Day) or pay for the Roscón.
In Italian folklore, Befana (derived from Epiphany) is an old woman wearing a black shawl and riding a broomstick who brings gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5th) in a similar way to Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus elsewhere. She is often covered in soot because she enters the children’s houses through the chimney. In Spain children also receive their presents at Epiphany rather than at Christmas.
The Dutch and Flemish call it Drie Koningen and the Germans call it Dreikönigstag (Three Kings’ Day). In the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, children in groups of three dressed as the three kings go from house to house singing songs and receiving a coin or some sweets at each door.
Food & Drink
KIng cake can be made and served anytime between Twelfth Night and Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday). Try these recipes (our own is coming soon).
King cake from Allercipes.com
Chef Emeril’s King cake
Lamb’s Wool is a hot spiced cider drink with baked apples traditionally used for wassailing at Epiphany.