January 06, 2004

Or, What You Will

Today is Epiphany, observed in some traditions as honoring the Gifts of the Magi (in some parts of the world, it's a bigger deal than Christmas for the giving of gifts). There are a lot of different customs associated with Epiphany and Twelfth Night (technically the night before), but one of the most interesting to me is the electing of the Bean King - a bean is baked into a cake, and whoever finds it is made king for the night. This makes it one of those curious fool's-season holidays that celebrates the inversion and, in a sense, subversion of the normal order of things, which is probably where the connection with Shakespeare's play (full of chaotic inversions, clever paradoxes, and unsettling epiphanies) comes in.

Will Shetterly (who is, like me, a Unitarian, though he's a much better writer) made an interesting post last month about the symbolic meaning of the gifts of the Magi; there's also some follow-up here. Much food for thought.

In any case, may your own gifts of revelation be rich and rewarding on this dark, chilly night, whatever star you find them under.

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