Today, is Epiphany and I am happy to welcome back Robin Rivera for this second Discovering Traditions guest post, as well as her second guest appearance on my blog. You can find her advent calendar contribution here, and read the previous Discovering Traditions post by Dr Gulara Vincent about New Year’s here.
Epiphany Robin Rivera
When I was young, the Epiphany was a joy. It was a last little Christmas to prolong the holiday season, and I loved it. Before bed on the eve of the Epiphany (January 5th) my mother would tell us stories about the three kings. My mother went to a strict Catholic girl’s school, and her stories were vivid and packed with countless details. That night we filled our oldest pair of shoes with straw and set them outside along with a bowl of water. In the morning, the straw and water was gone, gobbled up by the three king’s camels. In thanks for our offerings, the kings always left us gifts. Small gold foil wrapped chocolates, exotic smelling incense sticks and small toys were tucked into our shoes. We often received new shoes too, the old ones disappeared forever. Eaten by these poor half-starved camels, or so my mother said.
On the Epiphany there would be a lovely family meal. It always ended with hot coco and a spicy ring cake made from an old family recipe. The cake wasn’t fancy, and in truth, it was a bit more bread than cake, but it was always delicious. She coved it with creamy icing and sprinkled the top with colored sugar. Tradition says there should be a small plastic doll baked inside the cake, and whoever finds the doll will have good luck all year. But my mother would never allow it. She feared someone would break a tooth, or swallow the doll whole and choke to death.
We always giggled when my mom served the cake, mostly because of a story about my aunt. My mother’s younger sister never learned to bake very well, but one year when she was a teenager my grandmother gave her the job of making the epiphany cake. Somehow she mixed up the instructions and used the spice mace in place of cinnamon. They didn’t realize her mistake until the cake was served and no one could eat it. My aunt never lived down the mistake, and the jokes about her “emaciated” cake are an important part of our family lore to this day.
I outgrew the Epiphany before most of the other holidays my family celebrated. I guess it’s because by the time January 6th rolled around I was back in school and distracted by assignments and seeing my friends again. For many years the Epiphany passed without much notice and with no festivities.
When I met my husband I inherited a new Epiphany tradition. I have no idea where this custom from, but my mother-in-law always gave each of us a little picture of the three kings. She said that if you kept the picture tucked it into your wallet, you would have blessings and prosperity for the whole year. Part of her family ritual included surrendering the tattered picture of the kings she had given us the year before. These she threw into the fire. She said by burning the old pictures she released us from the past year’s mistakes and helped us accept the gift of forgiveness into our hearts.
I still love the message of my mother-in-law’s Epiphany tradition, and I hope someday it carries over to my children’s children. I think everyone can use a little forgiveness and I can’t think of a better way to start the year.
About the Author:
Robin trained as a professional historian and worked as a museum curator, an educator and historical consultant. She is half the blog “team” of Write On Sisters and writes dark young adult fiction with diverse characters. You can friend her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/robin.rivera.90813) or on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/32288238-robin). However, Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/RRWrites/) is where her inner magpie is happiest of all.