Christmas tree in our hotel room on New Year's Eve
Twelfth Night marks the final day of Christmas celebrations and is the day on which all Christmas decorations should be taken down. It is said to be bad luck to leave them up after this time!
It is still an important part of the Christmas holiday in some parts of Europe. Spanish children leave out their shoes, hoping the Wise Men will fill them with presents as they pass by.
Meanwhile, Italian children hope that an old woman called Befana will leave a present for them. Legend has it that Befana lived in Bethlehem when Jesus was born. The shepherds told her about the baby’s birth but Befana was too busy to visit. By the time she had finished her chores and travelled to the stable, the little family had departed. Since then Befana has wandered the world, searching for the baby and leaving a gift at every house in case he is there.
It used to be a tradition in England to bake a Twelfth Night cake containing a single bean. Whoever found the bean in their slice of cake became the Bean King or Queen for the day and could choose a partner to help them reign over the celebrations.
The Feast of the Epiphany is the day when the Christian church marks the arrival of the three Wise Men at the stable in Bethlehem. Many British children are doubtless quite confused by this as most school Nativity plays show the Wise Men (or Kings) coming to see the baby Jesus at the same time as the shepherds.
The three gifts presented to the baby were gold, as a representation of royalty, Frankincense as a symbol of God and Myrrh to signify suffering.