Twelfth Night is a bit of a grumpy day for me. Nothing festive happens. It’s just the day for dismantling the Christmas tree, packing baubles and Christmas wreaths away for another year, and reading through Christmas cards from old friends for the last time before they’re taken off to some recycling point. The house looks sparse and bare, and maybe in need of a spring-clean.
I think of Emily over in Barcelona. She’s not at work today because Twelfth Night is Epiphany. It’s the day on which Spanish children at last get their Christmas gifts, because the Day of the Three Kings is when legend has it that the Magi presented their gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus. As Emily points out, the main downside to this late arrival of gifts is that this is the very last day of the holidays: school tomorrow, and no time to get to play with those new toys. Still, today is another chance to party and enjoy a family feast.
It was Emily who may have been responsible for our finding ‘el caganer’ in our Christmas stocking this year. If your Catalan isn’t up to translating this, let me explain. It means, um, ‘the crapper’. El caganer is a little fellow in Catalan costume, squatting with his trousers down, and defecating. Why? Well, he’s a traditional part of Catalan nativity scenes. Maybe he’s a fertility symbol. Most people these days prefer the idea that it shows that great or small, we all have the same very basic needs.
So these days at any street market, you can buy caganer figures who represent the Pope, the Queen, Barack Obama, a whole range of footballers – any personality you can think of. And they’re just the same as us. Even if it’s Twelfth Night, I don’t think I’ll pack away our little ‘el caganer’ just yet.
And when we lived in France, Epiphany was the start of the Galette des Rois season. As guests anywhere, you’ll be sure to be offered a slice of this almondy pastry confection. Part of you wants the good luck of being the person to find the ‘fève’ within your slice. This used to be a lucky bean, making you king for the day. Nowadays it’s a small china figurine, and maybe quite collectable. I’ve just been looking unsuccessfully for our little fireman ‘fève’: goodness knows where I’ve hidden him . The downside of finding the lucky bean though, is that it’s your turn to make the galette next time round.
Parts of Europe seem to be having fun. Ho hum. Here, it’s all too easy to be aware that there’s January to get through before we can think of the days lengthening and the arrival of Spring.