Daily Connector | Epiphany here, there, then, now | Dan Halterman

January 6 is the end of Christmas.  That’s what I learned as a child.  My family tradition was to keep the tree up until Epiphany. I thought it strange that so many others had bare trees on the devil strip on December 26 (having tired of the thing after putting it up the day after Thanksgiving?) or January 2 (start the new year “fresh,” according to an aunt).  We had no other Epiphany tradition or observance - it just meant Christmas was over. 

The other, and more personally important, related tradition was selecting the tree on December 14 (my birthday).  Always at the Christmas tree lot adjacent to Beheydt’s Auto Wrecking south of Wadsworth, where at least twice I went with Dad in warmer weather to get a used part.  This annual family trauma-drama in the early years I remember involved lengthy squabbles among the four (and in later years, fewer) sibs about the “best” tree, often exacerbated by increasingly cold feet from standing too long in snow while arguing to the last.  (Writing this reminds me, again, and unhappily, how we’ve changed our climate in less than the span of my life – how much less winter each year.)

Living in Paraguay long ago, I learned that “Three Kings’ Day” (Epiphany, January 6) was a more fun gift day for children than Christmas.  I also learned that tropical cultures would adopt the great absurdity of our iconic Santa Claus dressed-for-cold-and-snow for Christmas in 100-degree heat at the beginning of the austral summer.

To write this, I wanted to learn if the “epi” of “epiphany” was the same root “above” or “on top” as in epinephrine.  The interwebs failed me, and I instead learned from the Wikipedia about a tradition previously unknown to me: chalking the door (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chalking_the_doorchalking):

many Christians (including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and Roman Catholics, among others) chalk their doors with a pattern such as 20 ✝ C ✝ M ✝ B ✝ 20, with the numbers referring "to the calendar year (20 and 20, for instance, for this year, 2020); the crosses stand for Christ; and the letters have a two-fold significance: C, M and B are the initials for the traditional names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar), but they are also an abbreviation of the Latin blessing Christus mansionem benedicat, which means, May Christ bless this house."[1] Another form, for Three Kings day, is to mark the door with IIIK (the Roman numeral three followed by "K" for "Kings").

In some localities, but not in all, the chalk used to write the Epiphanytide pattern is blessed by a Christian priest or minister on Epiphany Day; Christians then take the chalk home and use it to write the pattern.[2] the Epiphanytide practice serves to protect Christian homes from evil spirits until the next Epiphany Day, at which time the custom is repeated.[3]

I don’t know Joel’s schedule, or your interest in evil spirits, so call ahead if you have chalk that needs blessing.

My grandparents had a permanent tabletop Christmas tree – green-sprayed teasels stuck on a narrow Styrofoam cone.  (When I sought a picture to accompany this, the interwebs offered “Teasel Chiropractic” in northeast Ohio. Considering the necessity of pressure on the body, “teasel” seems risky advertising even if it is the doctor’s name; although as a counter-irritant to chronic back pain, they might be equally effective.)

If I can find teasels next summer, I might craft a permanent “Christmas tree” to relive my youth.  And maybe compete for the barely tapped table-top niche.  Treetopia’s popular color offerings (white, black, red, silver, gold, purple, pink) are possible from spray cans, and the 12” “tree” could easily stay on view (or nearly unobtrusive) until January 6, the day Christmas ends.Daiily