Photographer's Note

It’s Epiphany and I should be posting a photo of the Bethlehem start (which would be rather appropriate for someone who visited Bethlehem 3 months ago). But the sun is a star after all and sunrise in Venice is as good a presentation of “our star” as any other. Or so I think.

It was interesting to read about Epiphany traditions in Germany and in Turkey today. In Britain, like in Italy it is the last day when you can admire Christmas decorations. Tomorrow, discarded Christmas trees of many selfish property owners will appear on the public pavement waiting to be taken away by council workers sometimes two weeks later - yes, I do mean people in Accacia Road who own huge gardens where they could keep their rubbish until the collection day… ]:-)

Anyway… this differs from country to country. As Gert points out in his comments to Luciano’s post, in Sweden Christmas trees stay on for another week. In Poland (where I come from, Craig!) many people keep them until 2 February, which is yet another religious holiday.

In any case, Epiphany makes me think of Christmas, and it being Sunday today (means I’m not at work and my mind is free from worrying about accounts and spreadsheets) I allowed myself some time and effort to ponder various attitudes people have to this season’s festivities.

From time to time a debate erupts in Europe whether we should continue to celebrate Christmas. Some dismiss it as a religious festival and, as such, having no place in the modern world. (Somewhere there the rhetoric of the Stalinist era comes to mind, or is it just me? Even if it is just a date randomly chosen by the church several centuries ago). There are also those who hate the way the event has been commercialized over the last century or so. Some others will say “I don’t really care, let other people do whatever they like to do…” “Really?”, it makes me think… More excessive packaging, more plastic bags, more unwantet presents… (but then I go and do exactly the same as others do…). At the other end of the spectrum are a group of individuals who just love Christmas: the traditions, the glitter, the excitement. And of course those for whom it really is a deeply religious experiece. Have I mentioned all “factions”? I don’t think so. Which one are you? Well… which one am I??. “Epiphany” means a moment of sudden and great revelation. Well, not this year, sorry. All I know is it’s not part of human nature to be reasonable. Or objective. Or restrained in our wants and desires.

I, myself, sometimes quietly wish Christmas were cancelled. Another stupid Black Friday advert, another shopping stampede, another office Secret Santa event, another last minute purchase on Amazon and then a quiet prayer that it arrives on time… I could do without it all….

Maybe that’s why I travel around Europe in winter. Detached from my day-to-day reality, work and family, I actually enjoy the festive atmosphere, the decorations and the festive mood. Or at least winter weather, the snow and frost we rarely experience in my corner of the world.

In 2016 it was Finland and Spain (Majorca), in 2017 Belarus, Ukraine and Spain (Catalonia) , in 2018 Italy and Malta. And of course every year I also travel to Poland. Enough to come to a conclusion that our continent is at its most attractive in December.

But it was in Malta this year when I experienced the sense of awe I also felt in places like Kathmandu or Yangon or Khiva. The Christmas celebrations seemed so intense that they bordered upon exotic and I found that accumulation of festive merriment, including many religious symbols, very very exciting.

So maybe we will come up with an ultimate, shared opinion regarding the Christmas conundrum one day. Or maybe not. After all, do we really need one?

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Additional Photos by Kasia Nowak (kasianowak) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1597 W: 9 N: 3247] (16832)
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