The Stargazers among us were directed by astronomers to look out for what has been dubbed the ‘Christmas Star’ – also referred to ‘The Star Of Bethlehem’ – on and after the winter solstice in December 2020.
Jupiter and Saturn, the two largest planets in our solar system are in conjunction and aligned together to give the illusion of one large star. This is a rare event and it’s last equivalent occurrence was in the Middle Ages, nearly 800 years ago in 1226.
If you were lucky enough to observe or know about this celestial spectacle at this seasonal time, you would no doubt be reminded of a journey undertaken by three wise men who followed a star from the east – over 2000 years ago – to worship a new newborn king.
It is said that The Romans who had conquered and ruled the majority of the known world at that time thought the star was about them, and they put an image of it on one of their coins, next to Caesar Augustus.
The Epiphany – which translates as manifestation or revelation – is celebrated on January 6th as a Christian festival; commemorating the arrival of those wise men, or Magi at the stable in Bethlehem. Some accounts passed down through the ages proclaim that it took these travellers 12 days to reach their destination; the reason we keep the celebrations going, while waiting their arrival!
However in most Nativity scenes, picture and plays – especially in schools – the visitors make an appearance well in advance of that. Along with the shepherds, the animals and the holy family, they arrive offering their gifts, to complete the story in usually less than half an hour!
It’s no wonder timescales are confusing, yet as with everything, stories get added to over the centuries and the way we celebrate is dictated by our lifestyles.
You can’t blame our ancestors for embracing the twelve days of Christmas and enjoying a final last fling of partying and revelry on the eve of the Epiphany; after all they had been – unlike us – fasting for over four weeks in Advent. So in the grand scale of things, staying home as we have been asked to do is not such a big ask.
So this Twelfth Night, I’m going to settle down with Shakespeare, and raise a glass to the old and look to new beginnings, while remembering past times when my family were growing up.
There was always healthy competition in the household among our three children.
An older brother, who set the bar for his two younger sisters, gave them the incentive to try and succeed when he challenged them to a task. Never keen to lose, he managed to manifest the odds in his favour most of the time, so the girls had their work cut out!
After festive celebrations in school they decided to test each other’s knowledge of the Christmas Story and were asked to come up with something that no one else knew. Being four and half years of age, desperate to prove herself and determined to win the competition with her superior knowledge of the story; my youngest daughter threw her gold card onto the table by proclaiming:
‘And anyway, I know where the wee three kings live; it’s in the song we learnt at school’
Her siblings – giggling at her pomposity – demanded that she enlighten them with her newly found knowledge, and waited patiently for her answer.
Triumphantly, believing in herself, she carefully wrote down the words on a piece of paper, then holding it up as the ultimate proof, she exclaimed excitedly,
‘Aur Ree Enn Tarr’
Now that’s a revelation!