Thursday, January 6, 2011

Following Yonder Star

Magnet # 435:  Holly Hills Christmas Label

 Material:  Plastic

Purchased By:  Me

Think that the Holiday season has come to an end?  Well, not so fast - today is perhaps the Holiday's last hurrah, as every January 6th Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, is observed.  This celebration was developed in the early days of Christianity to honor the events of Jesus' childhood, sometimes leading up as far as the Wedding of Cana in Galilee.    Over time, this day has come to commemorate the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Roman Catholic and Protestant churches and the baptism of Jesus in Eastern churches.  It actually falls just after the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and is eve is often marked by celebration, as well as the day itself.  And in some parts of the world, this is a very popular event, but they're less prevalent in others.  When I was in college, my department headed up a Holiday stories collection, in which we were all encouraged to participate.  One of my classmates from Puerto Rico contributed a tale about Three Kings Day, which is apparently a big deal in his nation.  There, in a tradition very similar to the milk and cookies that are put out for Santa Claus, children may leave grass or hay under their beds as an offering for the Three Wisemen's camels.  And after they take the grass, they will leave presents for the kids in their place.   But I have to admit, it was the first time I had ever heard of the celebration.  I guess it's not all that big a deal in my region of the United States.  Still, there are some places in the nation that mark the day with a celebration.  The area around Manitou Springs, Colorado may have the most interesting one - there, they hold the Great Fruitcake Toss, which is an event that is pretty much just what it sounds like.  Contestants are judged by factors such as how far they can fling these often-loathed Holiday staples, or on how creative their flinging devices are.  And in Louisiana, this marks the beginning of the Carnival season, which leads all the way up to Mardis Gras.  During this time, quite a few King Cakes, which feature cinnamon, white icing, and a plastic baby hidden inside, are consumed and the local krewes begin to parade in the streets and hold their seasonal balls.  Also, Epiphany was very popular in Colonial Virginia, but its prevalence there has faded with time.  And now, to really get a feel for the holiday, it's almost necessary to travel to Europe, where more traditional ceremonies or variations are still very important celebrations in places like England, Germany, Bulgaria, and Poland.  It's also held in some Latin American countries like Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru.  It's funny - I have to wonder why Epiphany and Three Kings Day are so beloved around the world, but are almost completely forgotten in parts of the United States.

I thought this magnet, which features the Wise Men, would be great to post on this day.  I picked it up at the Florida State Capitol, where they have a pretty large selection of magnets like this one for sale.  These images were placed on the side of crates of oranges, grapefruits, and other produce for decades and were first developed by the Sunkist company in California.  Before then, the labeling of orange crates had been pretty crude - company names were stamped, stenciled, or burned on.  Over time, most family orange groves had their own labels, and some even had ones for special occasions, like this one.  With the advent of cardboard boxes with pre-printed designs in the mid 1950s, the old, colorful labels ceased to be used.  But they've remained pretty popular and the original labels are now collector's items and can sell for high prices.  And they've also been featured on plenty of other items over the years, like magnets.  Sure, this tradition doesn't have a fraction of the history of Epiphany and it will likely not have the celebration's rather long lifespan, but they have their own special charm, and are worth mentioning on this special day.

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