Epiphany, or the Feast of Epiphany, most commonly known as Three Kings’ Day, happens twelve days after Christmas, on January 6th. It is a Catholic observance and a day for commemorating the visit that the Three Wise Men paid to Baby Jesus. It is not a public holiday in America, and businesses follow normal hours.
The day of Epiphany is a Feast Day, and it marks the beginning of the Epiphanytide, a catholic season that lasts from this day until Ash Wednesday. It is also the end of the 12 Days of Christmas, a period that begins on Christmas Day and ends on the Epiphany. The days symbolize Jesus Christ’s birth and the manifestation of his divinity, respectively.
What is Epiphany?
The word Epiphany comes from the Greek and means manifestation. In religious terms, a manifestation is the appearance of an invisible being in their visible form.
In fact, on the day of Epiphany, people celebrate not only the visit of the Three Kings but also the time when Jesus was baptised and began spreading and teaching the Word about his father, God. These were the two times when Catholics believe that Christ’s importance and divinity were manifested, first because the Wise Men could sense he would be someone significant and second because it was after his baptism that Jesus started manifesting his message and his powers.
The origins of Epiphany
Originating in the 2nd century, Epiphany is one of the oldest known Christian celebrations.
Its history is written on the Bible on the book of Matthew, where he writes about the Wise Men that followed a star in the East for twelve days in the desert to Bethlehem, to visit the baby Jesus in his manger, who they believed to be the King of Jews. With them, they brought gifts of Gold, symbolizing his status as King of Jews, Frankincense for his divine nature and the fact he would be worshipped as the Son of God and finally they gave him myrrh, to symbolize Jesus’s suffering and death. In short, these gifts delineated baby Jesus’s destiny.
Curiously, the Bible never specifies how many men visited Jesus in his manger, and it is speculated that the number could be anywhere between 2 and 20 men. It is known that they were actually Zoroastrian Priests and not Kings. The number of visitors was officially set at three on around 500 AD, on account of the number of gifts that were given.
The day of Epiphany was usually when Eastern Churches would celebrate Jesus’s birthday, however, this was changed in the 4th century AD to December 25th, and Epiphany was set to January 6th, as they still are today.
As a holiday that is celebrated around the World, there are quite a few different Epiphany traditions.
In America, most people stick to celebrating Epiphany by attending church service, where the sermon is focused on Jesus’s baptism and the revelation of his holiness.
In some countries, such as Spain and Italy, January 6th is the day when children receive their Christmas gifts, as it was the day when Jesus received his gifts. Many countries also have their version of the traditional King Cake, in America, this delicacy is more famous in the city of New Orleans, where people eat the cake until Fat Tuesday. In Mexico, where the day is known as Dia de Los Reyes, the cake is called Rosca de Reyes, and it has a plastic baby Jesus inside. Whoever gets the baby, gets to be Jesus’s godparent for the day.
Finally, January 6th is commonly the day when people take down their Christmas trees, as it marks the official end of the Holidays season.