Interesting Facts About Epiphany (Holiday): “Three Kings’ Day”

On January 6, many believers celebrate the feast of “Epiphany” an ancient church festival celebrating the mysterious visit of the magi to the Christ Child (Matthew 2:1-12). Epiphany is also called “Three Kings’ Day” and “Twelfth Day” – the latter name because January 6 is twelve days after Christmas. The three wise men – named Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar – followed the star of Bethlehem to meet the baby Jesus.
In the West, Christians began celebrating the Epiphany in the 4th century, associating it with the visit of the Magi (the three kings) to Bethlehem. According to the Gospel of Matthew, the three wise men followed the star of Bethlehem across the desert to meet the baby Jesus, offering gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The gifts were symbolic of the importance of Jesus’ birth, the gold representing his royal standing; frankincense his divine birth; and myrrh his mortality.
Epiphany, also Theophany, Little Christmas, or Three Kings’ Day, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ. In Western Christianity, the feast commemorates principally (but not solely) the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child, and thus Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles.
Moreover, the feast of the Epiphany, in some Western Christian denominations, also initiates the liturgical season of Epiphanytide. Eastern Christians, on the other hand, commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God. Qasr el Yahud in the West Bank, and Al-Maghtas in Jordan on the east bank, is considered to be the original site of the baptism of Jesus and the ministry of John the Baptist.
Here are some interesting facts about Epiphany (Holiday):
1. Celebrations in Guadeloupe have a different feel from elsewhere in the world. Epiphany here does not mean the last day of Christmas celebrations, but rather the first day of Kannaval (Carnival), which lasts until the evening before Ash Wednesday. Carnival in turn ends with the grand brilé Vaval, the burning of Vaval, the king of the Kannaval, amidst the cries and wails of the crowd.
2. Both the Eastern and Western Churches celebrate Epiphany, 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.
3. Two very familiar Christmas carols associated with Epiphany are “As with gladness, men of old”, written by William Chatterton Dix in 1860 as a response to the many legends that had grown up surrounding the Magi, and “We Three Kings of Orient Are”, written by the Reverend John Henry Hopkins Jr., then an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church, instrumental in organizing an elaborate holiday pageant for the students of the General Theological Seminary in New York City in 1857 while serving as the music director of the seminary.
4. Epiphany is celebrated with a wide variety 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, water, baptismal rites and house blessings are typically central to these celebrations.
5. Epiphany is a national holiday in Italy and is associated with the figure of the Befana (the name being a corruption of the word Epifania), a broomstick-riding old woman who, in the night between January 5 and 6, brings gifts to children, and/or a lump of “coal” (really black candy) for the times they have not been good during the year.
The legend told of her is that, having missed her opportunity to bring a gift to the child Jesus together with the Three Wise Men, she now brings gifts to other children on that night.

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