Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Day Of Revelation - Epiphany 2015

Today is Epiphany, the celebration of the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus, and their recognition or revelation of Him as the King of Kings.

The Adoration of the Kings                                                 William Blake, 1799

There is but one popular American carol for the celebration of Epiphany. It was written by the Episcopal clergyman, John Henry Hopkins, Jr., and appeared in print in 1863 in a collection of his sacred music.

And here is a piece I first wrote in 2009 about the celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas, an event that often ends in Twelfth Night parties or the presentation of gifts on Epiphany:

We can only imagine what it must have been like to celebrate Christmas for twelve days. The festivities, including the giving of one gift a day, then opening all of them on Twelfth Night or the following day (Epiphany), must have delighted children. I suspect that a few of those gifts were modest by today's standards, perhaps as simple as an orange or bag of special candy. My dad once told me that as far back as he could remember, his Aunt Lizzie 

(shown here in 1912 when she was 24) had always given her nieces and nephews several gifts, including a popcorn ball wrapped in colored cellophane. I'm sure they were a part of Lizzie's childhood in the late 1880s and 90s when popcorn was wildly popular. Like many women of her era Lizzie never married, choosing instead to care for her parents and brothers. When my dad's generation married and had children of their own, she continued her generosity, including the distribution of those popcorn balls up through her last Christmas in 1958. By that time, her popcorn ball making had turned into a small industry - we were a large family.

And so, every Christmas for my first twelve years, I eagerly accompanied my parent to Lizzie's home to exchange gifts and return home with a bag of popcorn balls. For some reason, my parents never carried on Lizzie's tradition, nor have I.  It may be too late for my kids, and grandchildren are rather unlikely in the near future. Still, I think it's never too late for my wife and me to enjoy a batch.

Aunt Lizzie's Christmas Popcorn Balls

8 cups of popcorn
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup of sorghum syrup
1/3 cup of water
1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

Combine the sugar, sorghum, water, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches about 250 degrees or hardens when dropped into cold water. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla, and pour over the popcorn. Working quickly, mix thoroughly, butter your hands and shape popcorn into balls about four inches wide. Let them cool on wax paper. Wrap each ball in red or green cellophane and secure with a ribbon. Distribute to wide-eyed youngsters or oldsters alike.  

Sounds like a tradition in the making.

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