January 6th is a day of Little Christmas (“Women’s Christmas” in Ireland). The other name for it is Old Christmas or a Feast of the Epiphany.
It is the final celebration with which the 12 days of Christmas end.
What is really fascinating about this Holiday, besides spiritual content, is how much its cooking, baking, singing, acting, worshiping and celebrating traditions serve for strengthening and cherishing connection between people, families generations and cultures.
6 of January is also the day Eastern Orthodox Christians and Byzantine Catholic Christians. They follow Julian Calendar and celebrate Christmas Eve with Holy Supper. It is a ritualized, 12-course meatless meal that begins when the first star is seen in the evening sky.
Historically the dinner table used to be decorated with a white tablecloth with some straw placed on top as a symbol of the manger. In the middle of the table was a loaf of bread with a lit candle. Placed in the centre, it symbolised the light of the world.
Christmas Sheaf (didukh) – a beautifully arranged ornament made from the last stalk of wheat, as well as flax, oats, and rye harvested during the year.
Our ancestors placed Sheaf (Didukh) in the holiest place in the house, as it has a very special meaning. Traditional believe is that sheaf has the strength of family ancestors and protects the family from evil. It symbolises well-being, the preservation of memorable family events and link between generations.
One of the essential ritual dishes at the Supper is Kutia. Its main ingredients are wheat grains, poppy seeds, honey, walnuts and raisins. Kutia is a symbol of unity of generations – past and coming ones. It also symbolises victory of life and is a subject of many ancient family customs.
At the end of Supper comes dessert: nut roll, poppy roll or apricot roll (kolach); a thin, crisp, fried dough cookie dusted with powdered sugar (kruschiki); cookies sweetened with honey and sugar glaze (medovniki).
Epiphany is also one of the big traditional celebrations in Latin America and in Europe, especially in Spain. The name of this holiday is “El Dia de los Reyes” – Kings’ Day.
It is believed that on this day, the three wise men — Melchior from Arabia, Caspar from the Orient, and Balthazar from Africa — arrived in Bethlehem from the Far East to meet the new-born baby Jesus and present him with symbolic gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrhh.
The three Kings or wise men perform the same role as Santa Claus at Christmas. Hence on the evening of the 5th of January children are leaving a cleaned pair of shoes outside their doors for the nocturnal visitors to fill with gifts.
Celebrated over two days, Spain’s annual Three Kings Festival features colourful street parades, a vibrant display of brightly illuminated costumes and, of cause, a famous tradition of Roscon de Reyes – traditional circular sweet bread sprinkled with sugar and dried fruits.
Roscon de Reyes or Kings’ Cake is a crown-shaped puff pastry cake or brioche with embedded inside little king or queen made of plastic of porcelain. Whoever finds it will be a “monarch” for the day, hence receive a very special attention.
Hidden inside the cake is also a bean. The recipient of the bean will have to buy the Roscon the following year.
Some bakeries have gone much further than just putting mini figures of Kings and beans into Roscon. They are also baking diamonds and cheques worth thousands of euros into the cakes. Such a nice surprise for the whole year ahead!
If you would like to buy a real Roscon de Reyes in Dublin, you can try A Taste of Spain in Capel Street. But hurry! Their Roscon is so exceptional, that people order them far in advance.
In Poland King´s Cake ( Ciasto Trzech Króli) also plays a very important role on the celebration table. It has a lucky coin or almond inside. Whoever finds it in his piece of cake, becomes “the King of the almonds”.
Christmas Carols and Nativity play are the most beloved traditions and another important part of the rich folkloric heritage. Children walking with a Star knock on the doors, sing carols sharing the joy and good-news and receiving treats.
This is an absolutely fascinating way to see how Little Christmas Celebrations are establishing and strengthening connections between people, families, generations and cultures!
The Happy Family Bakery wishes you and your Families the best of health and happiness during these festivities and always!