I suppose it isn’t a secret. I love Christmas! Even living in a predominately Buddhist and Muslim country for the past 16 years, I still do my utmost to enjoy the entire holiday season starting with U.S. Thanksgiving in late November on through the traditional New Year’s all the way until Epiphany which falls today, the 6th of January. After that, I prepare to celebrate the Lunar New Year but with much less enthusiasm than I do for the Yuletide.
A large part of my annual celebration is seeking out as many Christmas stamps as possible and this year saw more than the usual number of beautiful designs. The checklist I made for the holiday stamps issued in 2020 includes 89 entries with mostly Christmas stamps but a few seals and other items mixed in along with links to each of the articles about them that have appeared on Philatelic Pursuits. If I have missed any, please let me know in the Comments below.
As today is Epiphany, I wanted to round out my annual tradition of posting Christmas stamps with something rather special. These are a set of fantasy stamps created by Filipino graphic artist Allen Jaymie Sembillo to mark the Twelve Days of Christmas, posting them to his Twitter feed one per day from 26 December until 5 January). These are beautiful designs and it’s a shame that they aren’t official releases. They would make an awesome miniature sheet with a decorative border.
Sembillo says that his next project will mark the Lunar New Year in early February. Follow him on Twitter: @LenLenSembillo.
I find them quite wonderful and hope that you had a wonderful holiday season. The one here in Thailand was much “different” than any in years past due to many businesses going all-out to decorate to try and rejuvenate the flagging local economy (which is very dependent on overseas tourists) and then having to cancel all celebrations due to our first COVID-19 cases in many, many months. Much of the country was shut down for a couple of weeks and then, in my province of Phuket, we were allowed to return to work on Monday. However, that’s been short-lived and we were told today that we were going back into shut-down mode effective tomorrow. Thus, my ONLY holiday celebration this season has been to seek out and post all of the worldwide Christmas stamps issued for the 2020-2021 Christmastide.
Once again, Merry Christmas!
The Twelve Days of Christmas, also known as Twelvetide, is a festive Christian season celebrating the Nativity of Jesus. In most Western ecclesiastical traditions, “Christmas Day” is considered the “First Day of Christmas” and the Twelve Days are 25 December to 5 January, inclusive. For many Christian denominations — for example, the Anglican Communion and Lutheran Church — the Twelve Days are identical to Christmastide, but for others, e.g., the Roman Catholic Church, Christmastide lasts longer than the Twelve Days of Christmas.
An English Christmas carol called “The 12 Days of Christmas enumerates in the manner of a cumulative song a series of increasingly numerous gifts given on each of the twelve days of Christmas. The song, published in England in 1780 without music as a chant or rhyme, is thought to be French in origin. The tunes of collected versions vary. The standard tune now associated with it is derived from a 1909 arrangement of a traditional folk melody by English composer Frederic Austin, who introduced the familiar prolongation of the verse “five gold rings” (now often “five golden rings”).
The earliest known version of the lyrics was published in London under the title “The Twelve Days of Christmas sung at King Pepin’s Ball”, as part of a 1780 children’s book, Mirth without Mischief. Subsequent versions have shown considerable variation:
- In the earliest versions, the word on is not present at the beginning of each verse — for example, the first verse begins simply “The first day of Christmas”. On was added in Austin’s 1909 version, and became very popular thereafter.
- In the early versions “my true love sent” me the gifts. However, a 20th-century variant has “my true love gave to me”; this wording has become particularly common in North America.
- In one 19th-century variant, the gifts come from “my mother” rather than “my true love”.
- Some variants have “juniper tree” or “June apple tree” rather than “pear tree”, presumably a mishearing of “partridge in a pear tree”.
- The 1780 version has “four colly birds” — colly being a regional English expression for “coal-black” (the name of the collie dog breed may come from this word). This wording must have been opaque to many even in the 19th century: “canary birds”, “colour’d birds”, “curley birds”, and “corley birds” are found in its place. Frederic Austin’s 1909 version, which introduced the now-standard melody, also altered the fourth day’s gift to four “calling” birds, and this variant has become the most popular, although “colly” is still found.
- “Five gold rings” has often become “five golden rings”, especially in North America. In the standard melody, this change enables singers to fit one syllable per musical note.
- The gifts associated with the final four days are often reordered. For example, the pipers may be on the ninth day rather than the eleventh.
Epiphany, also known as Theophany in the east, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ. In Western Christianity, the feast commemorates principally (but not solely) the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child, and thus Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles. It is sometimes called Three Kings’ Day, and in some traditions celebrated as Little Christmas. Moreover, the feast of the Epiphany, in some denominations, also initiates the liturgical season of Epiphanytide.
Eastern Christians, on the other hand, commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God. The spot marked by Qasr el Yahud in the West Bank, and Al-Maghtas in Jordan on the east bank, is considered to be the original site of the baptism of Jesus and the ministry of John the Baptist.
The traditional date for the feast is January 6. However, since 1970, the celebration is held in some countries on the Sunday after January 1. Those Eastern Churches which are still following the Julian calendar observe the feast on what, according to the internationally used Gregorian calendar, is January 19, because of the current 13-day difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendars.
In many Western Christian Churches, the eve of the feast is celebrated as Twelfth Night (Epiphany Eve). The Monday after Epiphany is known as Plough Monday.
Popular Epiphany customs include Epiphany singing, chalking the door, having one’s house blessed, consuming Three Kings Cake, winter swimming, as well as attending church services. It is customary for Christians in many localities to remove their Christmas decorations on Epiphany Eve (Twelfth Night), although those in other Christian countries historically remove them on Candlemas, the conclusion of Epiphanytide. According to the first tradition, those who fail to remember to remove their Christmas decorations on Epiphany Eve must leave them untouched until Candlemas, the second opportunity to remove them; failure to observe this custom is considered inauspicious.