Wednesday, 4 January 2012
An epiphany in Sweden
In Sweden, like in many other countries around the world, the Christmas celebrations are not over yet. This Friday, January 6th 2012, is also a national holiday.
Well, first of all January the 6th commemorates 'Epiphany' - meaning revelation, manifestation. This biblical occasion was when the three Kings visited the baby Jesus and declared him to be the son of God. Most of us know this story, they wandered near and far, following yonder star. And it's not at all surprising that this is celebrated in predominantly religious countries.
But why is it still celebrated in Sweden? It's a classic example of how cultures develop, how our modern-day traditions grow out of something historical. As time goes on, we still maintain the tradition - but we forget the reason why we do it.
I would venture to say that most Swedes don't even know why January 6th is a holiday.
Most Swedes are not religious, and ironically, many don't even like Kings.
For most Swedes, January 6th is just another day off work after all the other Christmas and New Year days off. And instead of bringing gifts, as the three kings did, it's more often about returning unwelcome Christmas gifts or trawling the bargains at the post-Christmas sales.
I question the value of continuing to have 6 January as a national holiday in Sweden. Since very few know the reason, and not many are religious, wouldn't it be better to ditch this holiday and replace it with a day off when we all most need it? Like, in the darkest depths of the year when we're all tried and in need of a break -sometime in November?
Now that would be an epihpany!