The term Epiphany is derived from the Greek term epiphaneia which implies manifestation or appearance. Along with Easter and Christmas, it is one of the major Christian celebrations. This holyday is usually celebrated on January 6, to mark the presentation of the newborn Jesus to the Magi or the three wise men – Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.
The celebration of the Epiphany actually originated in the Eastern Church, which also include a celebration of the birth of Christ. By the 4th century, the Roman Church began to celebrate Epiphany on January 6.
The feast of the Epiphany is celebrated by Christians, which commemorates the Revelation of the Divine God to Mankind in the human form or in the person of Jesus. The feast of the Epiphany also celebrates all of Jesus childhood events till the Baptism of Christ by John the Baptist.
In Hispanic and the Latin culture, the Epiphany is known as the Three Kings Day. Both Christmas and the Epiphany were commemorated at different times in the past due to the differences in the Eastern orthodox, Western Catholic and Protestant traditions. Though, today the Western Church calendar is followed widely.
The season of Christmas commences with the first Sunday of Advent and concludes with the feast of the Epiphany in traditional Christian churches.
Colors of Epiphany
The colors of Epiphany are same as the colors of Christmas white and gold, which marks hope, celebration and newness. For traditions observing The Epiphany as a single day, the colors are often changed to green or thematic sanctuary colors.
Theological Significance of the Epiphany
The Magi, who brought the gifts to the infant Jesus were the first followers to acknowledge Christ as the King. This worship of Christ by the Magi, first indicated that Jesus came for all the people, of all races, of all nations and the work of God would be for the whole world.
The day is also a day for reflection on Christian brotherhood and fellowship.
Celebration of the Western Christian Churches
The early Western Church decided to celebrate Christmas on December 25, in a contrast to the Eastern Orthodox Church, which commemorated the birth of Christ on January 6.
In France, the feast of the Epiphany includes a kind of a king cake with a trinket or a bean inside. The person finding the trinket, usually becomes the king for that day.
The Roman Catholic Church has the priest in a white vestment, blessing the Epiphany water, gold, frankincense and chalk to commemorate the Feast of the Epiphany. The chalk is used for writing the initials of the three Magi on the doors of the churches and homes. For the Roman Catholics, Christmas has twelve days, beginning on December 25 and ending on January 5, with the Epiphany being celebrated on January 6.
For the Church of England, the Principal Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on January 6.
Celebration of the Eastern Christian Churches
In Eastern Orthodox Churches, Epiphany is the feast of the Revelation of Jesus Christ as the Savior. It also marks the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. Orthodox Churches also have the Blessing of the Waters . A cross is cast in a water body and any person who can swim to the cross first and return it to the cleric is delivered a special blessing.
Both the Eastern and Western Churches celebrate the Epiphany, but the difference lies in the fact that the Eastern Church determines the date based on the Julian Calendar.