Sunday, January 06, 2008

“Old Christmas is past, Twelfth Night is the last...”

Some of you may remember seeing the issue of US News & World Report, with the cover from the Traditional Latin Mass at Old Saint Mary's in DC. I know the guys in that picture. I've even served there. Let me tell you, it's a really great piece of architecture that was too poor in the 1970s to be subjected to the iconoclastic "experts" of the time. But hey, let's get back to them later in the program. For the moment, let's talk about me...

In the town in Ohio where I grew up, they used to collect all the used Christmas trees that people left out by the street. Then the town would have a huge Twelfth Night bonfire to dispose of the trees, as part of a "Yule Log" celebration. Mind you, this was a town first settled in 1787 (and to this day, basically run as if they owned it) by Methodists. I don't even know if the custom has prevailed to this day. I think they just take the PC way out and collect them as part of a recycling program. Where's the fun in turning something into mulch instead of lighting a match to it, I ask you?

But just when you thought we'd have another year of Christmas celebrations ending abruptly on the 26th, the commercials for Christmas sales (and yes, some of them used the dreaded politically-incorrect term) kept on coming. And it gets better. USA Today reports that the major retailers have discovered the growing Latino market, and with it, their commemoration of "El Día de los Reyes," or the "The Day of the Kings" on Epiphany (also known variously as "Los Tres Reyes" or "Los Tres Reyes Magos"). In Spanish-speaking countries, it is not Santa Claus, but the Three Kings who come bearing... er, uh, gifts. Who knew?

A growing number of retailers are promoting the Hispanic tradition of celebrating Three Kings Day every Jan 6 as a way to extend the buying season past Christmas and connect with Hispanic customers... El Día de los Reyes celebrates the day in Christian tradition when the three wise men visited the baby Jesus... Wal-Mart, which began promoting the tradition in a big way last year, is expanding. This year, the three kings are visiting Wal-Marts in the Southwest, and more than 300 Wal-Marts have displays and products geared to the celebration. And Kmart is sponsoring the Three Kings parade in Miami on Jan 13 and an appearance by José Feliciano at its Bronx, New York, store Thursday.

(h/t to Margaret Cabaniss of

That's right, the mother of all Big Box stores is taking the advice I've been promulgating for a couple of years now (click here). And hey, we're talking José Feliciano here. That's playin' the Palace, folks. Wal-Mart is prolonging that old Christmas spirit, even as this writer's timeless wisdom is ignored by the huddled Catholic masses in favor of belly-aching about the "culture wars," and flocking to somebody's next book-signing tour (and you know who you are, Mark).

I ask so little, I give so much.

Meanwhile, closer to home, my Christmas was almost as good as the one I spent in 2002 in Seattle. Sal was there at the house, and my son actually graced us with his presence for at least three hours, before continuing his merry-making rounds. What a prince! Then we went to her brother's house, and I fell asleep watching the big-@$$ screen TV downstairs. The perfect end to the perfect day.

Three days later, it was Childermas Day, and my birthday. My youngest sister came to Baltimore with her husband to visit his family, and they came down to DC that day. (That's her in the picture with some loser we met at the bar. Sorry, guys, she's taken.) Pat got to see my house for the first time, and now she can report to the rest of the family on the grand style of living to which I am now accustomed. Then we moved the party to where Paul tends bar. I must have been thirsty that evening, as I went through that strawberry daiquiri a little too fast. Well, that got me in the holiday spirit alright. Good thing I wasn't driving. Paul was mildly amused. He broke down and fixed me a Bloody Mary. Finally, a drink for grown-ups.

New Year's Eve was spent, in the words of an Elton John song, "at the club at the end of the street" -- in our case, Cecilia's, a popular Latin dance club in south Arlington. I may have been one of the few guys in black tie. But hey, it's New Year's Eve, dammit, and I'm getting out the glad rags for this main event. It gets respect from the bouncers too. Not that it doesn't happen anywhere else...

Finally, we had Second Vespers of the Epiphany at St John the Beloved in McLean tonight. It went very well, for a bunch of guys who had never done it before. Now, remember that US News cover above? Well, why settle for a magazine that anybody can get, when yours truly can grace the cover of a suburban newspaper for the High-Rent District? Not only that, but it's fifty percent larger than US News. That's more ME for your money. (I'm the guy on the left.)

The evening before, St John's had the blessing of "Epiphany water." For those unfamiliar with the custom, the old Rituale Romanum features a special blessing for holy water that a priest can use only for this Feast. It includes several prayers of exorcism, and the priest does not need a mandate from a bishop for performing exorcisms in order to use it. So, this evening, with the blessed chalk, and with Sal in attendance, I stood on a chair and inscribed the letters over the door.

2 0 + C + M + B + 0 8

The letters stand for the names of the Three Kings; Caspar, Melchoir, and Balthassar. They also stand, coincidentally, for the Latin blessing which I said out loud: "Christus Mansionem Benedicat" -- "May Christ this dwelling bless." On the way in the house, I accidentally hit Sal's knee with the leg of the chair as I was bringing it in. Oooh, that hurt! She was already having lower-back discomfort the whole day on top of my being a klutz. But she summoned the courage to press on, and we recited Psalm 109(110) together, while sprinkling the holy water in every room of the house, not to mention on her knee: "The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool..."

After the concluding prayer, Sal discovered that the pain in her knee was completely gone, as was her back trouble.

You don't suppose...


Anonymous said...

Is the server in the back left, Jordan Mann?

David L Alexander said...

You'll have to ask him.

ejwilson said...


I've been in Texas since the 20th with my grandfather who is dying of cancer. It sounds like a lot of great events have been going on. Is there anyway I can get some of the chalk? Did you use the old breviary for vespers? Is it permissible to use the Rituale from before the council?

David L Alexander said...


1) Send your mailing address to my e-mail address. I'll see what I can do. (But just this once.)

2) The setting for our Vespers was a modified version of the pre-conciliar form. I'll send an attachment. (See #1.)

3) Under the terms of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, yes.

GregK said...

Just BTW, the priest on the cover of that U.S. News issue is Msgr. Charles Pope, who is the best Catholic preacher around. You can hear his homilies at