Twelfth Night has always made me inexpressibly sad in ways it’s quite hard to quantify, especially when you know how hard I find it to get into a Christmas Mood at all. As a child I found it devastating to put away the decorations and the tinsel and go back to normal, knowing it would be another year before it happened again. A year to a child is a massive amount of time, after all. As an adult, I bemoan the fact that Christmas stuff is up in the shops in September, and two days after Christmas, Easter chocolate has already appeared on the supermarket shelves. I didn’t get the tree up until almost Christmas Eve and now I am dreading taking it down. My lilies, bought on Christmas Eve are about finished, one or two still pristine but most dropping petals on the floor and looking very sorry for themselves.
Today I lit my angel lights for the last time.
I love this little trinket, bought in Germany before Christmas, and was like a child watching the tiny silver angels as they spun, casting winking lights around the room. Later, I will dismantle it and put it back in its box, carefully, and the same with my fine glass icicles on the tree. I’ll collect all the sticks of cassia that have been sitting on my radiators and scenting the house and put them all away.
Today is also the day of the Epiphany, I think, the day the last of Jesus’s visitors showed up. The Magi, or if you prefer, The Three Wise Men. Or as some would have it, the Three Kings. I visited their relics at Cologne cathedral before Christmas and I even bought some Drei Konig’s incense, which I am burning today.
Who were these three late arrivals, turning up in the wake of the angels and the shepherds? There’s a great deal of legend and speculation and not a lot of hard facts. They almost certainly arrived some years after the birth of Jesus and some have them down as Zoroastrian priests. I don’t know. There’s something rather romantic and intriguing about the idea of these three(well, we don’t even know their number) exotic strangers turning up from unimaginably distant lands, bearing extraordinary gifts. Of the parts of the Christmas story, it’s the Magi that get my imagination going.
The gift giving of Christmas is somehow meant to last the whole year, but the gifts of the Magi a lifetime. The Gold was probably what made the difference between poverty and comfort for the Holy family, the Frankincense a fall back too, and the Myrhh, well, that’s one to put away and hope you never need it. No mother wants to have to bury her son.
Is then the sadness of Twelfth Night for me a foreshowing of the Easter road, that long hard road to Calvary or is it simply the long cold days of January and February? The sky is full of snow and while I know the light grows daily, with the cold and the grim grey days, Christmas was a brief and hardly felt respite in the harshness of winter.
Tonight I have saved a bottle of somethingfizzy and frivolous to drink as the last night of Christmas, and I shall try and fix my eyes on the Spring ahead. Maybe I shall buy some potted snowdrops to urge on the Spring!