Last night was Twelfth Night, officially the last night of Christmas, when the decorations are taken down and, the last blow out meal is eaten, before we get down to the grisly business of surviving the cold and sunless days of January and February. I like the idea of decorating a real tree, particularly that the idea comes from those shaggy tribesmen that Russell Crowe massacres in the opening scenes of ‘Gladiator’.
In our household we wait until the following Sunday which is quite often also the Epiphany. Not for religious reasons, simply because it’s the end of the holidays and back to school the next day. Rather than ending the ‘festive season’ in a frantic tearing of wrapping paper and the destruction of fancy packaging, followed by the rush to ebay to sell the unwanted gifts, the rituals of packing away the decorations for another year, eating the last of the chocolates and burning the tree are all satisfyingly symbolic.
In France we also have the traditional galette des rois, a frangipane pastry eaten at the Epiphany, just to mark the end of Christmas. The galette contains a porcelaine figurine, traditionally one of the crib people, but nowadays just as likely to be a Disney character. We have quite a motley crew in our collection that ranges from Pluto to the baby Jesus, via wild ducks and unidentified beings carrying sinister-looking sacks. They are probably all made in China which explains the slightly off-beat appearance.
Having lit the fire for the winter solstice, we’re sitting tight now until Imbolc, next fire festival when the snowdrops should be out.