Timqat

Because the Ethiopian Christmas, Ganna, falls on January 7, Epiphany (Timqat) is celebrated on January 19. It celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. It begins at sunset on Epiphany Eve, when people dress in white and go to their local church. From there, they form a procession with the tabot, or holy ark, in which the ancient Israelites put the Tablets of the Law, or Torah. They accompany it to a lake, stream, or pond. It is placed in a tent, where it is guarded all night while the clergy and villagers sing, dance, and eat until the baptismal service the following morning. Discuss
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Festival of St. Peter’s Chair

At the Vatican in Rome, St. Peter is honored as bishop of Rome and the first pope. The current pope, wearing his triple crown and vestments of gold cloth, is carried in his chair of state in a spectacular procession up the nave of St. Peter’s Basilica. He is deposited behind the altar on a richly decorated throne that enshrines the plain wooden chair on which St. Peter is believed to have sat. The ceremony dates back to at least 720 and is regarded as one of the most magnificent ecclesiastical observances to be held at St. Peter’s. Discuss
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St. Knut’s Day

The feast day of King Canute (or Knut), who ruled Denmark, England, and Norway in the 11th century, marks the end of the Yuletide season in Sweden. Rather than letting the holidays fade quietly, Swedish families throughout the country hold parties to celebrate the final lighting (and subsequent dismantling) of the Christmas tree. After letting the children eat the cookies and candies used to decorate the tree, and after packing the ornaments away in their boxes, it is customary to hurl the tree through an open window. Discuss
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St. Gudula’s Day

St. Gudula (or Gudule) is the patron saint of Brussels, Belgium. According to legend, Satan was so envious of her piety and influence among the people that he often tried to extinguish her lantern as she returned from midnight mass. But as she prayed for help, an angel would re-light the candle. Her relics were moved to Brussels in 978. Since 1047 they have remained in the church of St. Michael, thereafter called the Cathedral of St. Gudula. Her feast day is observed with great solemnity in Brussels, particularly at the cathedral that bears her name. Discuss
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Perchtenlauf

The Perchtenlauf in Austria is usually held on Epiphany. The Perchten are old masks, usually of witches and fearsome animals, that have been handed down for generations. People wearing the masks run through the village beating drums, ringing bells, singing, shouting, and making as much noise as possible to scare winter away—an ancient custom that can be traced back to pre-Christian times. The procession of masked figures stops in the main square of the village and everyone begins to dance wildly, making even more noise than before. Discuss
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