Cultural dances and a dive for the cross keep the holidays going just a little bit longer

It's the 12th day of Christmas, and what that means might depend on where you're from.

If you live in Tarpon Springs, you might find yourself diving for a cross. If you're Irish, today is Nollaig na mBan, or Women's Christmas. Time for the ladies to get out for some fun, while the men do the household chores.

In another European tradition, you may take a piece of chalk and inscribe "20 + C + M + B + 09" above your door. That equation commemorates the three wise men — Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar — who are said to have followed a star to Jesus 2009 years ago. By coincidence or design, "CMB" also stands for the Latin prayer Christus Mansionem Benedicat, "May Christ bless this house."

In England, Twelfth Night may be celebrated with a drink called Lamb's Wool, made of cider or ale, with roasted apples, sugar and spices. Almost anywhere, there will be king cake with a figure of the baby Jesus baked inside. Legend has it the messiah got cooked into the dough so that King Herod could not find him.

All across Europe yule log fires, lit on Christmas day, are finally allowed to burn out.

Today may be the day you take down your Christmas tree.

If you're Hispanic, the 12th day of Christmas is Three Kings Day, celebrated by setting out shoes for Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. In Spanish cultures they are called Los Reyes Magos, the Magic Kings. Overnight your shoes will be filled with candy or coal.

In our local communities, the 12th day of Christmas is diverse and vibrant. The Epiphany celebration today in Tarpon Springs is one of the largest in the world. Sunday, Centennial Park in Ybor lit up with cultural dances, arts and food from around the Spanish-speaking world. The Three Kings themselves made an appearance to spread holiday joy, and plenty of candy.

In the end, it all really means the same thing to anyone who celebrates Christmas, anywhere: The time has come to get back in gear, and probably into the gym to work off all the junk you've been eating for the past 12 days. The holidays are officially over.

Today's schedule

9:30 a.m.: Divine liturgy at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Tarpon Springs

Noon: Blessing of the waters by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta.

12:30 p.m.: Procession with clerics, visiting dignitaries, children in traditional Greek costumes, the dove bearer and others. After the bearer releases the dove, Demetrios will throw the Epiphany cross and the dive to retrieve it will begin.

Cultural dances and a dive for the cross keep the holidays going just a little bit longer 01/05/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 6, 2009 1:37pm]

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