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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Celebrating Epiphany

Epiphany- what is that? A revelation? A holiday?

Today is the holiday of Epiphany, or Three Kings day, when we celebrate the coming of the Kings to Jesus after his birth. 

Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo,
17th century (
Toledo Museum of ArtOhio.
Here are some definitions from


–noun, plural -nies.
initial capital letter a Christian festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi; Twelfth-day.
an appearance or manifestation, esp. of a deity.
a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.
a literary work or section of a work presenting, usually symbolically, such a moment of revelation and insight.

Here is a more in-depth explanation from Wikipedia:
Epiphany (from Koine Greek (ἡ) ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia "appearance", "manifestation") is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as ahuman being in Jesus Christ. It falls on January 6 (or, for Roman Catholics in many countries, on the Sunday that falls between January 2 and January 8). Since the Julian Calendar, which is followed by some Eastern Churches, is at present 13 days behind the Gregorian Calendar and the revised Julian Calendar, 6 January in that calendar corresponds at present to 19 January in what is the official civil calendar in most countries. On this feast, Western Christians commemorate principally (but not solely) the visitation of the Biblical Magi to the Baby Jesus, i.e., his manifestation to the GentilesEastern Christians commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God. It is also called Theophany, especially by Eastern Christians.
The term now used in the East is rather "Theophany", from Greek (τα) Θεοφάνια - Theophania (from θεός + φαίνω), "appearances of God". Alternatives include η Ημέρα των Φώτων, i Imera ton Foton, "The Day of the Lights", and τα Φώτα, ta Fota, "The Lights".

How do you celebrate Epiphany? We've not really celebrated Epiphany in our home before, other than just acknowledging it. This year we decided to take down our Christmas trees on Epiphany. Another thing we may do to celebrate is to make star-shaped cookies, and we could pass them out to our neighbors. I am not sure if we will do that or not. 

Epiphany is celebrated in a variety of ways around the world. Here are a few of them:

 -In the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, children in groups of three (symbolising the three kings) proceed in costume from house to house while singing songs typical for the occasion, and receiving a coin or some sweets at each door. They may each carry a paper lantern symbolizing the star. 

-In England, the celebration is also known as Twelfth Night, and was a traditional time for mumming and the wassail. The yule logwas left burning until this day, and the charcoal left was kept until the next Christmas to kindle next year's yule log, as well as to protect the house from fire and lightning. In the past, Epiphany was also a day for playing practical jokes, similar to April Fool's Day. Today in England, Twelfth Night is still as popular a day for plays as when Shakespeare's Twelfth Night was first performed in 1601, and annual celebrations involving the Holly Man are held in London. A traditional dish for Epiphany is Twelfth Cake, a rich, dense, typically English fruitcake.

-In the Philippines, the Christmas season traditionally ends on this day, known colloquially as "Three Kings" or "Tres Reyes" (FilipinoTatlong Hari). Filipino children also leave their shoes out, so that the Kings will leave behind gifts like candy or money inside. Most others on this day simply greet one another with the phrase "Happy Three Kings!". In some localities, there is the practice of having three men, dressed as the Tatlong Hari, ride around on horseback, distributing trinkets and candy to the children of the area.

-In the United States, in Colorado around Manitou Springs, Epiphany is marked by the Great Fruitcake Toss. Fruitcakes are thrown, participants dress as kings, fools, etc, and competitions are held for the farthest throw, the most creative projectile device, etc. As with customs in other countries, the fruitcake toss is a sort of festive symbolic leave-taking of the Christmas holidays until next year, but with humorous twist, since fruitcake (although the traditional Christmas bread of America, England and other English speaking nations) is considered in the United States with a certain degree of derision, and is the source of many jokes.

And I LIVE in Colorado and I've never heard of this- have any of you? I think it is very fascinating and interesting to learn about the different customs/ celebrations around the world. I think I'd like to be able to say "Happy Three Kings!" and have others say the same to me today. 

What do you do to celebrate Epiphany? Anything? Feel free to comment about it below! I'd love to hear what you do...

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