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When is Epiphany?
Epiphany is one of the oldest holidays in Christianity. It is celebrated every year on January 6th, and it commemorates the visit to Jesus by the Three Wise Men shortly after his birth. Epiphany is older than Christmas, but ties into the holiday season in the Christian church. The types of celebrations vary based on faith, family customs and region.
History of Epiphany
Epiphany marks the day when the Three Wise Men made their journey to Bethlehem to see Jesus, the newborn king. According to the Holy Bible, the men followed a star to the stable where Jesus was born. This is often regarded as a sign from God. Each of the men brought a gift for Jesus: frankincense, gold and myrrh. Epiphany is also the day in which Christians believe that Jesus was baptized.
This is considered one of the holiest of holidays, which was identified early on in the history of Christianity – less than two centuries after the crucifixion of Jesus. In fact, Christian scholars believe that Epiphany was celebrated well before Christmas Day, the latter of which celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Epiphany is also the old holiday that celebrates the nativity.
Celebrations and Customs
The types of celebrations also vary between Eastern and Western Christians. The Eastern Orthodox Church primarily commemorates Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River around Epiphany. In Western sects of Christianity, such as Catholicism and Protestantism, the journey of the Three Wise Men is the center of celebrations.
All churches have special services on or around Epiphany. If the holiday doesn’t fall on the traditional day of Mass, then a church may decide to hold its celebrations on the date closest to January 6th. Other churches may have sermons on both days. The focus on the service is on Jesus’ birth, with variations based on Eastern and Western beliefs.
Celebrations of Epiphany also vary by family. Many Christian households conduct special prayers on January 6th, while others cook a feast in celebration of the sacred holiday. To some Christians, Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas holiday season. This is why many families choose to take down their Christmas decorations on or around January 6th. Another traditional custom is the reenactment of baptism ceremonies.
The star that guided the Three Wise Men to Jesus’ place of birth in Bethlehem is the most important symbol of Epiphany. Replicas are placed in churches as well as Christian homes. Some families also commemorate Epiphany by replicating the three types of gifts given to Jesus by the Three Wise Men.
Extent of Celebrations
Epiphany is not considered a government or public holiday in many countries. This is especially the case in western countries like the United States, where secularism is upheld. In such cases, workers typically don’t take the day off. However, the holiday is more commonplace in deeply religious nations such as Peru, Russia and Spain. Some businesses and schools close so that citizens may have the opportunity to participate in Epiphany customs and celebrations.