Some people have already put away their Christmas decorations but that job for me doesn’t occur until after tomorrow as we reach the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas. The word Epiphany means manifestation. It celebrates the arrival of the Magi to meet the newborn Christ Child and their presentation of gifts to Him. In many countries, this is the time for the holiday gift exchange. In our family, my daughter always receives a little gift on Epiphany from Babushka (known as La Befana in Italy).
Flickr, Ryan Vaarsi
The story of Babushka goes like this: A short distance from the town of Bethlehem, long long ago there lived a woman called Babushka. She prided herself in having the cleanest house in town and was known as the best cook around. It took a lot of work to maintain this reputation and so she was always very busy with a lot of work to do. She had heard that there were some kings from the East soon to be passing through town on their way to Bethlehem but Babushka was much too busy to look into the matter and she kept on working.
Then, one day she saw a great parade coming into town and there, at the end, were three kings dressed in fancy clothing. When they reached Babushka’s house, they stopped, seeing her peering out of her window. They explained to her that they were on their way to Bethlehem to see the newborn King of Kings and asked if she would be able to provide them with some food and a place to stay. Babushka was a generous soul and a wonderful hostess so of course she opened up her home for them. She cooked them a delicious meal, made up beds for them, and bustled about making sure everything was just perfect.
The following morning, the kings thanked Babushka and asked her to come along with them to meet the Christ Child. Babushka told them that she was much too busy to leave her home and the kings went on their way. Shortly after they left, though, Babushka had a change of heart. She gathered up a basket of toys for the newborn King – they had belonged to her son who had died so long ago. Oh how happy it would make her to bring some joy to another little boy with these gifts! She sat down for just a moment to rest before setting out to meet up with the three kings but she was so exhausted from all the work she was always doing that she fell asleep.
Many hours later when she awakened, she grabbed the basket and rushed off into Bethlehem to join the kings and meet the Christ Child. Unfortunately, by the time she made it there, they had all left town and she couldn’t find them anywhere. It is said that Babushka spent the rest of her life searching for baby Jesus so that she could present Him with the basket of gifts. As she journeyed, whenever she came upon another child, she would give them a gift in His honour. It’s said that every year on the eve of Epiphany (Twelfth Night), Babushka begins her search for the infant Jesus once again and brings toys to all the boys and girls she encounters as she travels.
Added note: I just came across this post about wonderful cake ideas for Twelfth Night from Pam of Gingerbread Snowflakes and had to share it with you: http://gingerbreadsnowflakes.com/node/480