‘Twas Christmas broach’d the mightiest ale;
‘Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man’s heart through half the year. – Sir Walter Scott, Marmion
¡Feliz Día de Los Reyes! In other words, Buona Epifania! Or, S Roždestvom! Which is to say, Melkam Gena! In the English-speaking world yesterday was the last of the twelve days of Christmas, and last night was Twelfth Night, on which Yuletide gives way to Carnival; in these hasty modern times, most of those countries were done with Christmas days ago, rushing it out practically before it had found itself a comfortable seat. But in other parts of the world, the best part of the holiday has only just arrived. For those traditionally-Christian countries which use the Gregorian calendar, today is the feast of the Epiphany, on which the Magi were supposed to have visited the infant Jesus; it is thus also called “King Day”, and in the Middle Ages was the day on which presents were exchanged in deference to that belief. But while the gift-giving shifted back to Christmas Day in most of Christendom, Italy and Spain retained the King Day tradition, and it is still the custom in both countries and all over Spain’s former empire. Children in those countries awoke this morning to discover that Los Tres Reyes (The Three Kings), or in Italy the good witch Befana, left them presents during the night. But in countries whose churches stubbornly refused the Gregorian calendar, today is only December 24th (liturgically speaking), and tomorrow is Christmas Day. In Russia it’s even more complicated, because the officially-atheist Soviet Union switched the winter celebration to New Year’s Day; different families might be visited by Grandfather Frost on the night of December 24th, December 31st or January 6th. But whether today is for you the beginning of the Christmas festival, or the end of it, or the first day of Carnival (which ends this year on March 4th), or just another work day, may it hold many gifts for you.