Discovering Traditions: Epiphany by Robin Rivera | Solveig Werner

Today, is Epiphany and I am happy to welcome back Robin Rivera for this second Discovering Traditions guest post, as well as her second guest appearance on my blog. You can find her advent calendar contribution here, and read the previous Discovering Traditions post by Dr Gulara Vincent about New Year’s here.

Epiphany Robin Rivera
When I was young, the Epiphany was a joy. It was a last little Christmas to prolong the holiday season, and I loved it. Before bed on the eve of the Epiphany (January 5th) my mother would tell us stories about the three kings. My mother went to a strict Catholic girl’s school, and her stories were vivid and packed with countless details. That night we filled our oldest pair of shoes with straw and set them outside along with a bowl of water. In the morning, the straw and water was gone, gobbled up by the three king’s camels. In thanks for our offerings, the kings always left us gifts. Small gold foil wrapped chocolates, exotic smelling incense sticks and small toys were tucked into our shoes. We often received new shoes too, the old ones disappeared forever. Eaten by these poor half-starved camels, or so my mother said.

On the Epiphany there would be a lovely family meal. It always ended with hot coco and a spicy ring cake made from an old family recipe. The cake wasn’t fancy, and in truth, it was a bit more bread than cake, but it was always delicious. She coved it with creamy icing and sprinkled the top with colored sugar. Tradition says there should be a small plastic doll baked inside the cake, and whoever finds the doll will have good luck all year. But my mother would never allow it. She feared someone would break a tooth, or swallow the doll whole and choke to death.

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Advent Calendar Day 24: A German Christmas | Solveig Werner

rman, but grew up in Germany the US and France. Still Christmas stayed a completely German affair. Not all parts of Germany are very Christmassy, nor are all Germans Christians. Still Christmas is important.

Today, I want to share some of my traditions for the 24th of December, or Heiligabend (Holy Evening).
The 24th of December starts with the opening of the last bag, window or door of the advent calendar. Because Christmas is almost here! Actually celebrations happen on the 24th rather than on the 25th. Today things are different for many Children in Germany, because most will be banned from the living room for most of the day.

In the living room, one can hear parents or grandparents (the number of adults allowed inside is often limited, at least in my family, to preserve the magic) rummaging around as they are transforming it into a magical place. Many kids will at one point in their life try to get a look through the keyhole or if the door is made out of glass through the makeshift curtains. Are the mountains of presents big? Where are my presents?
But quickly this nosiness will be taken over by a feeling of guilt, hoping that no one saw. I recall that one year I threw a look through the keyhole and all I could see were presents hidden underneath tea towels, I guess I was in the age of curiosity and my parents knew it.
The 24th must be the slowest day of the year for kids, and the quickest for adults. It drags on, and even though it is right after the winter solstice it seems as though night does not want to fall.
The Christmases with snow make the wait so much easier, as one can go sleighing, build a snowman or just have fun outside. It’s also the moment for those last minute presents and creation of window decorations.

With the day dragging on slowly or sprinting past (it’s a question of perspective) everyone is relieved when it is time to go to church. The 24th seems to be the day of the year for which churches exist… My family often goes to Church, but not always. Here in Paris it is not easy to find a Lutheran service, especially if you are looking for it to be held in German…

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