Despite our secular culture's view that "Christmas" starts on November 1 and ENDS on Dec 25th, Christmas which actually BEGINS on December 25th and is twelve days long continues until January 5th. Thus Christmas is a season in the Church's liturgical year. "Christmastide" is another word used to designate these twelve days. The title, The Twelve Days of Christmas, is not just a nice title for merry Christmas Carol but a statement of fact. While January 6th was this past Friday, many parishes will celebrate Epiphany on the closest Sunday (today)- hence my post about Epiphany. I will say that Orthodox Christians continue to celebrate Christmas on January 6th so Merry Christmas to all Orthodox Christians. The reason they celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6th is they still use the "old style" Julian calendar not our usual calendar (i.e. the Georgian calendar).
What is Epiphany anyway? From Wikipedia's article about Epiphany:
Epiphany, (Koine Greek: ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, "manifestation", "striking appearance") or Theophany, (Ancient Greek (ἡ) Θεοφάνεια, Τheophaneia) meaning "vision of God", which traditionally falls on 6 January, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. Western Christians commemorate principally (but not solely) the visitation of the Biblical Magi to the Baby Jesus, and thus Jesus' physical manifestation to the Gentiles. Eastern Christianscommemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God Epiphany is celebrated by both the Eastern and Western Churches, but a major difference between them is precisely which events the feast commemorates. For Western Christians, the feast primarily commemorates the coming of the Magi, with only a minor reference to the baptism of Jesus and the miracle at the Wedding at Cana. Eastern churches celebrate the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan. In both traditions, the essence of the feast is the same: the manifestation of Christ to the world (whether as an infant or in the Jordan), and the Mystery of the Incarnation. The miracle at the Wedding at Cana is also celebrated during Epiphany as a first manifestation of Christ's public life.
Western Christian Churches
Even before the year 354, the Western Church had separated the celebration of the Nativity of Christ as the feast of Christmasand set its date as December 25; it reserved January 6 as a commemoration of the manifestation of Christ, especially to the Magi, but also at his baptism and at the wedding feast of Cana. Hungarians, in an apparent reference to baptism, refer to the January 6 celebration as Vízkereszt which term recalls the words "víz" as water, "kereszt, kereszt-ség" as baptism. In parts of the Eastern Church, January 6 continued for some time as a composite feast that included the Nativity of Jesus: though Constantinople adopted December 25 to commemorate Jesus' birth in the fourth century, in other parts the Nativity of Jesus continued to be celebrated on January 6, a date later devoted exclusively to commemorating his Baptism.
Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches
Usually called the Feast of Theophany (Greek: Θεοφάνεια, "God shining forth" or "divine manifestation"), it is one of the Great Feasts of the liturgical year, being third in rank, behind only Paskha (Easter) and Pentecost in importance. It is celebrated on January 6 of the calendar that the particular Church uses. On the Julian Calendar, which some of the Orthodox churches follow, that date corresponds, during the present century, to January 19 on the Gregorian or Revised Julian calendar.
The earliest reference to the feast in the Eastern Church is a remark by St. Clement of Alexandria in Stromateis, I, xxi, 45:
And there are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord's birth, but also the day… And the followers of Basilides hold the day of his baptism as a festival, spending the night before in readings. And they say that it was the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, the fifteenth day of the month of Tubi; and some that it was the eleventh of the same month.
National and local customs
Epiphany is celebrated with a wide array of customs around the world. In some cultures, the greenery and nativity scenes put up at Christmas are taken down at Epiphany. In other cultures these remain up until Candlemas on February 2. In countries historically shaped by Western Christianity (Roman Catholicism, Protestantism) these customs often involve gift giving, "king cakes" and a celebratory close to the Christmas season. In traditionally Orthodox nations, these celebrations typically center around water, baptismal rites and house blessings.
PS: I apologize for all the odd fonts and print sizes, sometimes Blogger does not allow me to do what I would like to do.