For our ancestors, who celebrated “Old Christmas,” the night preceding January 6th is the Eve of Epiphany. It was on this night, over 2000 years ago, that the Magi came to Bethlehem to find the baby Jesus.
Today, the Day of Epiphany is still known as “Old Christmas,” which was the day that Christmas was celebrated before the calendar changed in the 18th century. One of the old beliefs concerning the Day of Epiphany was that a person should never lend anything to anybody on Old Christmas Day, because the lender would never get it back again. Also, the Eve of Epiphany is the night when the Holy Spirit manifests Itself upon the earth in many subtle ways. Upon that night, no matter how hard the ground was frozen, elder bushes would sprout from the ground. Even more mysterious is our ancestors’ belief that at midnight on Old Christmas Eve, if they crept silently into a barn or field, they could hear the cattle and sheep praying. At the exact stroke of midnight on Old Christmas Eve, animals would start moo-ing and baa-ing and bellowing as though they were crying, in remembrance of their own ancestors who had been present in the stable at Bethlehem to witness the birth of the Christ Child and His revelation to the Magi.
A wonderful book that I am reading about celebrating Christmas in England of long ago is “Old Christmas” by Washington Irving.
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