When I was a boy, we used to keep our Christmas tree up and our outside lights still shining at least until what we knew as “Russian Christmas,” namely, the Epiphany. I wasn’t sure what that had to do with Russians or with calendars, but I liked the tradition. Colored lights – keep them on! I knew, from the carol, that there was something called the twelve days of Christmas, and later I learned that the twelfth night was one of especial joy and celebration. That’s why Shakespeare named one of his merriest comedies Twelfth Night – not because it has to do with the feast, though he was deeply fond of Christmastide and of Easter, but because of the sheer fun.
It’s a happy coincidence that we in the northern hemisphere get to celebrate Christmas and Epiphany in the darkest days of the year. The light shines out all the more gloriously. Let’s think about it. When the priest Zachariah, the father of John, was finally able to speak again after nine months of silence, he uttered a poem …
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