In the Christian liturgical calendar, February 2nd marks the official end of the Christmas season. While some are looking for a groundhog’s shadow and others are humming “Here Comes Peter Cottontail,” the staunchly traditional among us are still contemplating Silent Night.
In my childhood home, we celebrated for the 12 days of Christmas. However, in many Christian homes across the world, the decorations remain in place–especially the creche (a representation of the scene of Jesus’ birth)–until this Feast of the Presentation, also called the Purification of Mary, or Candlemas.
The Candlemas celebration, which dates back at least to AD496, includes a special blessing of beeswax candles which are used in a procession representing the entry of Jesus into the Temple of Jerusalem.
For Christians, Jesus is the Light of the World, and his coming into the world is cause for great celebration. In the Gospel of St. Luke, the story is told of the baby Jesus, who at 40-days-old, was brought by his parents to the Temple. His mother Mary is following the teachings of Moses as found in Leviticus. There she meets Simeon, an old man who has prayed to see the Messiah before he dies. By a gift from God, he recognizes the baby is destined to be “the light which shall give revelation to the Gentiles and is the Glory of the people of Israel.” He prophesies trouble ahead, but for the moment, all is joyful.
Christmas is a season of wonder and an opportunity to display some of my “favorite things.” So, as the season comes to it’s official close, I thought I’d post some photos of them.
The main creche in our home is one of my favorites, and during the season it holds a place of honor on the mantle.
There’s another small ceramic creche atop a cabinet near the front door. This year the eight nights of Hanukkah coincided with the first week of Christmas (Dec. 24 – Jan. 1) and I was delighted to celebrate the traditional lighting of the Hanukkah Menorah. (Yes, some Christians do celebrate Hanukkah!) Jesus celebrated Hanukkah and, according to St. John’s Gospel , he chose the Feast of the Dedication to announce that he was indeed the Messiah.
Beneath our tree, we assemble a village at Christmas time, complete with a church choir singing and a trolley station with the hustle and bustle of last minute shopping.
Our family tradition of a snow scene beneath the Christmas tree recalls one our grandparents had. We are fortunate to have a photo of them with the tree. At Christmas time, I display it on the piano with a collection of small prints of past family Christmases. The Santa kneeling by the crib is a recent gift from my brother. It is meant to evoke the dedication St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) and the “reason for the season.”
The real St. Nicholas (AD270-343) was Bishop of Myra in a city now known as Demre, Turkey. A man known for great generosity and piety, he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, staying in a cave on a hillside town now called Beit Jala, overlooking the birthplace of Jesus. There he spent three years contemplating the life of Jesus.
In the Catholic tradition, St. Nicholas is named the patron saint of more causes than any other. He is widely known as the patron saint of children, and for that reason I place him among our collection of vintage and replica wind-up toys. Wearing his bishop’s robes, he holds three gold balls, which signify three gold purses. They also symbolize he is the patron saint of pawn shops.
At last, I box up my treasures, and return the house to it’s ordinary days…meanwhile the clock ticks down, until next Christmas.