Season of celebration continues into January

January 06, 2001|By JACQUES KELLY

TODAY IS THE feast of the Epiphany, or the day that commemorates the visit of the three kings to Bethlehem. I picked up the little regal plaster figures and moved them into the center of action in the manger set I built in my dining room. Now I'll celebrate the season for a few more weeks as I deal with January and the days of little light.

This is the time of the year when I'm in the middle of one of my favorite Baltimore modes. It's too cold to do anything but stay inside, keep cozy and visit. I'm not at all ready to chuck the Christmas season out in the back alley just yet. OK, maybe I don't need to look at any more poinsettias, but these are the days when the fruitcake still tastes good and who would say no to the last of the butter cookies, even if they emerged from the oven not long after Thanksgiving?

In the summer, I use any excuse at all to get out of town on the weekends, but this is the season to make the best of inside Baltimore, of its fine old homes in its antique neighborhoods.

One of the many benefits of living in Baltimore is that you get to know a lot of people, people who kindly invite you to their homes.

There is something about the spell cast by a 1900 house on a January afternoon, with the sun angling off to the southwest. The light glances off wood floors, shows up the delightful imperfections of wavy window glass and brings out the color in old rugs and mahogany furniture. Why would anyone walk around a shopping mall when there is a chance to sit and chat?

As much as I like to go from house to house in the holiday party spirit, standing and talking with people whose names you can't quite remember, I also like a Sunday afternoon around a fireplace talking with old friends.

It's the time of the year to forget about crime and politics. It's a season for reminiscing and healing, recovery and recollection that naturally flows from a first-rate visit with real friends.

In the spirit of these sentiments, I refuse to take my Christmas tree down. Why not enjoy its branches during this relaxed, time-out season when all the hurry-up of December is long past us?

When I was a child, my family really got into this time. We had a fairly aggressive pre-Christmas ordeal - cakes to be made, cookies baked, Christmas gardens to be built.

But these January nights were the perfect time to feast upon the fruits of December's labors. You can be sure that on Jan. 6 there were plenty of nutmeg-laced cookies left. At least half the fruitcake remained and although those slices were thin, they were satisfying. The eggnog bowl we kept alive with infusions of fresh cream and other tasty elixirs.

But no party or gathering works without people. And this is where Baltimore excels: Old friendships and renewed relationships triumph over the bleakest of Januarys.

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