Today, January 6, is the Feast of the Epiphany, also known in many countries as Three Kings Day.
Growing up, my family celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany as the official last day of the Christmas season. January sixth was the day we took down our scrawny Christmas tree, removed the silver tinsel, swept up the pine needles, rolled up the daisy-chain garland, wrapped the dime-store ornaments and
bubble lights in toilet paper, and stored everything in a few shoe boxes.
Oh, my, how times have changed!
This year I began removing ornaments a few days ago. It's been a slow process. We have so many ornaments and decorations. The most cherished are those hand painted by my children and grandchildren. Other special ornaments were given to me by my family and friends over the years -- several from the White House collection, some with an Irish theme, others with sayings about sisters and friends, many from our family's annual Thanksgiving Day ornament exchange and from my Bunco friends at our Christmas party ornament exchange.
Each ornament tells a story and brings back a memory.
There's one ornament that tells a story I wrote about in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Gift of Christmas. The story was called "Unexpected Joy."
The ornament featured in the story was given to my family on the Feast of the Epiphany a few years ago.
But the story didn't start there.
It started on the first Sunday of Advent when our doorbell rang one night and I found a wrapped package on the front porch. Inside was a gingerbread house, which my grandkids and I decorated.
The next Sunday another gift arrived, then another for each Sunday in Advent. I called family and neighbors to find out who left the gifts. No one knew and no one confessed. I expected someone to reveal themselves on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but it wasn't until the Feast of the Epiphany that a family from our parish knocked on our door and handed us another gift.
It was a burgundy colored velvet box.
Inside was a hand-painted "Li Bien" ornament. A small circle inside the box explained the meaning of "Li Bien" which comes from the Chinese meaning "inside."
The Li Bien ornament showcases the age old skill of inside painting, which originated in the Qing Dynasty. The ornament was hand-painted through a tiny opening in the mouth-blown glass. Each image is painted in reverse.
The ornament inside was of the Nativity scene, complete with the Holy Family and the Three Kings.
So, on this Feast of the Epiphany, or the Feast of the Three Kings, I fondly remember the year a family treated us to these special gifts, and the act of kindness and generosity they shared with us.