RESTON, VA, December 28, 2011 ― Christmas is already over. The New Year begins just four days from now. In the entertainment world, there’s not much going on for the rest of this week, except maybe for this weekend’s endless series of Whatever Bowl Games. But aside from that, to all appearances, it looks like our holiday season is rapidly drawing to a close almost before it’s started, right? Wrong! You’re forgetting about those Three Wise Men.
In actuality, the full Christmas story doesn’t really wrap up until January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. That’s the day we celebrate the arrival of the Three Wise Men at the manger in Bethlehem.
Whether you call them the Three Wise Men, the Three Magi, the Three Kings—or, in our own irreverent times, the Three Wise Guys—their journey’s end, commemorated on January 6, is sometimes known as “Little Christmas” because it marks the definitive end of the formal twelve-day Christmas season.
But the Christmas season story arc gets complicated when it comes to those two key dates, December 25 and January 6, since various religious traditions still choose to hew to an earlier calendar than the one most countries use today. For many of them, the holiday season might, in fact, not end until January 19.
Confused? So were we. So before we get completely tangled up in Christmas calendar issues, let’s turn to Wikipedia for a reasonably good explanation of this season’s variable dates:
“The original date of the celebration [of Christmas] in Eastern Christianity was January 6, in connection with Epiphany, and that is still the date of the celebration for the Armenian Apostolic Church and in Armenia, where it is a public holiday. As of 2011, there is a difference of 13 days between the modern Gregorian calendar and the older Julian calendar. Those who continue to use the Julian calendar or its equivalents thus celebrate December 25 and January 6 on what for the majority of the world is January 7 and January 19. For this reason, Ethiopia, Russia, Ukraine, the Republic of Macedonia, and the Republic of Moldova celebrate Christmas on what in the Gregorian calendar is January 7.”
Still too complicated? Well, the upshot of it all is that we’ve got at least a week, and maybe more, to celebrate the current holiday season. And in part we can thank our Three Wise Guys, and maybe their very slow camels, for stretching this holiday out. With an assist, of course, from Pope Gregory XIII and his new and improved calendar. Hey, at least we don’t have to worry about how the Mayan calendar works in all this. (Not yet, anyway.)
To commemorate the Magi’s imminent arrival in 2012, we’ve dredged up a clever YouTube video we discovered just last year. It reimagines the events of the original Christmas, including the arrival of the Magi, as if all its participants had been able to avail themselves of today’s social media.
Irreverent? A little. And yet, somehow, it still captures the spirit of the season.
BTW, for a fascinating, scholarly synopsis of the Christmastide timeline, check out Washington Times Communities columnist Amanda Read’s interesting article, “The Day the Star Stopped.”
Read more of Terry’s news and reviews at Curtain Up! in the Entertain Us neighborhood of theWashington Times Communities. For Terry’s investing insights, visit his WT Communitiescolumn,The Prudent Man in Politics.
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