Happy twelfth day of Christmas!

holytheophany3I know it sounds weird, but I think December is the hardest time of year to be a practicing liturgical Christian. During Advent we mark a solemn time of prayer and preparation for Christmas. And then when we’re ready to party and celebrate the 12-day Christmas season, very few other people are. Just when I get my tree up, everyone else is taking theirs down. There’s a predominant cultural feeling that Christmas has passed and it’s on to New Year’s, college football champsionships and the Superbowl. In fact, the notion that Christmas is a 12-day season is so forgotten that most people have no clue what that Days of Christmas song references. Which is probably why no one brought me my 12 drummers drumming today.

Anyway, I kept looking out for stories that would talk about what it’s like to celebrate the holy days of the season as a liturgical Christian. I didn’t find any but David Crumm’s piece in the Detroit Free Press today is great and looks into the Christmas celebrations of liturgical Christians from the East.

Michigan’s diversity of immigrant groups, drawn mainly to auto-industry jobs during the last century, has left a colorful sprinkling of Christmas customs across metro Detroit.

That includes an unusual Armenian Orthodox Church observance of Jesus’ birth tonight and Friday in congregations such as St. Sarkis in Dearborn and St. John in Southfield.

“The Armenian Church is one of the oldest churches in the world, and we still celebrate an ancient tradition from the early church that joins two Christian feasts into what we call Holy Theophany,” the Rev. Garabed Kochakian, pastor of St. John Armenian Orthodox Church, said Wednesday. “In this double feast, we celebrate both the manifestation of God through Jesus’ birth and through his baptism.”

The story also gets into the calendar issues we discussed last week that help explain why the Eastern and Western churches celebrate Christmas a few weeks apart:

One day after the Armenian observance, thousands of Russians, Serbians and other Eastern Europeans will celebrate Christmas for a different reason. They’re parishioners at more than a dozen local churches that still follow an ancient calendar for Christmas that runs 13 days later than the modern secular calendar.

Also, I keep wondering why the folks who fought the War on Christmas haven’t kept their battle going. What about the coming War on Epiphany and other seasons and feasts of the church calendar?

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  • http://blogs.salon.com/0003494/ Bartholomew

    The Battle for Septuagisima promises to be particularly exciting

  • Mark Vassilakis

    I think this phenomenon is responsible for the “post-holiday” blues. Retaining the traditional Advent fast along with the festal emphasis on the 12 days of Christmas. Unfortunately, modern society has inverted the spirit of these two seasons. As for me, I will be at the Theophany divine liturgy tomorrow.

  • Michael

    The War on Epiphany begins once groups find a way to raise money by trumpeting the cause and Fox News find a way of using it to sidetrack viewers from more important concerns, like war and poverty.

  • Herb

    I lived 28 years in Germany and served as a Lutheran pastor, though my background is Baptist/Free Church. (Evangelical Lutherans in Germany tend to be pretty warm towards their fellow evangelicals of other stripes — there aren’t that many of us, we have to stick together!) I always enjoyed January 6th, not only because my senior colleagues, who were weary after Advent and Christmas, would give me a chance to preach, but also because of the emphasis on Epiphany. It was even easier to relate to in the Catholic tradition, with groups of 3 young wise men walking around the neighborhood, looking for donations. Some how I can relate to the visit of the 3 holy kings (though the number is uncertain, and they were certainly not kings, nor “holy” in any special sense) in a way that the more generic term “Epiphany” doesn’t relate, so I would usually talk about the former. It’s pretty up-to-date: pagan Gentiles show more interest in the intervention of God than the entrenched religious establishment.

  • Stephen A.

    The War on Epiphany? What war? What Epiphany? You made your own point. There’s no need for conservative-bashing (but was it fun anyway?)

    It’s been virtually wiped clean off the calendar by secularists… and I’ll give widespread ignorance at least half the blame, too.

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  • Jeff Roberts

    The war on Epiphany has been won, long ago. When I mentioned to friends and family that I’d spend this evening at an Epiphany service and feast, no-one knew what I was talking about. When I explained, no-one cared.