What is Epiphany Mean
According to the Gospel of Mathew, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, during the reign of King Herod, the biblical Magi or the three kings from the east followed a star across the desert for 12 days to find him. The three wise men Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar traveled to Bethlehem and asked “Where is the one who has been born, king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” They brought with them gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. All these gifts were symbolic and were meant to represent the baby’s destiny.
Gold symbolized his Royal blood and that He was the King of the Jews.
Frankincense meant that He was divine and that eventually people would worship Him. Frankincense is burnt in churches even today.
Myrrh is a perfume which is used to embalm dead bodies. It represented the fact that even Jesus would eventually suffer and die.
Epiphany-the feast of the three kings:
With respect to the Gregorian calendar, the three wise men came to Jesus on the 12th day of Christmas. Jesus was baptized on the same day by John the Baptist, by the River Jordan. While some celebrate the three wise men others commemorate this day as his day of baptism. Epiphany that means “Manifestation” in Greek is celebrated to mark the revealing or proclamation to the World that Jesus, the king of the Jews, has been born. Some even celebrate this day as the day of Christ’s first miracle when he transformed the water into wine at the wedding in cana while some dedicate it to the Nativity of Christ. But all these events mark the revealing of Christ, the savior, to mankind. It is generally celebrated on 6th of January every year. But there are protestant churches for whom, the Season of Epiphany starts from January 6 and ends with the Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. The last Sunday of the Epiphany is celebrated as Transfiguration Sunday. Some Catholic dioceses in the US celebrate Epiphany on the Sunday after January 6, while the orthodox Christians celebrate it on January 19th. The Epiphany marks the end of the festive season.
The Epiphany is one of the oldest Christian traditions dating back to time even before the advent of the Gregorian Calendar. Clement of Alexandria wrote in around 200, that the followers of Basilides celebrate the day of His Baptism on the 15th of the month Tybi of the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar while some celebrate it on the 11th of the same month. The Basilides used to spend the previous nights in reading from the Gospel. The dates mentioned by Clement represent January 6th and 10th respectively in our calendar. The earliest reference to Epiphany as a Christian feast was in A.D. 361, by Ammianus Marcellinus.
Epiphany is celebrated around the world and there are a wide array of customs specific to the region.
Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil
Epiphany is celebrated on the 6th of January in these countries. The children leave their shoes by the door along with grass and water for the camels, the night before. On the next morning they receive a present. This day is called “Día de Reyes” (The Day of Kings) while the previous night is known as “Noche de Reyes” (The Night of Kings). “Rosca de Reyes” (a ring-shaped Epiphany cake) is eaten and all Christmas decorations are removed. In Brazil it is known as “Dia dos Reis” and the night of the kings is feasted with music and local cuisine. Rosca de Reyes is common to Mexican families too.
Epiphany is celebrated on January 6 and is known as Bogoyavlenie (“Manifestation of God”), Krashtenie Gospodne (“Baptism of the Lord”) or Yordanovden (“Day of Jordan”). On this day, the priest throws a wooden cross into the sea, river or lake and young men race to get it back. The waters are freezing cold and the one who reaches the cross first is believed to be bestowed with good health. In Kalofer, a traditional horo is played in the Tundzha river before this ritual.
Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and neighboring Germany
The Dutch and Flemish call this day Driekoningen, while Germans call it Dreikönigstag (Three Kings’ Day). Children dressed as the three kings go from door to door singing songs. They are given coins or sweets from each house. Koningentaart (Kings’ tart), puff pastry with almond filling and a hidden black bean inside, is prepared in Belgium. The one who finds the bean is king or queen for the day.
It is a day of strict fasting and all the houses are blessed with water before the Epiphany feast.
Epiphany is not the last day of Christmas celebrations here, but the first day of Kannaval (Carnival), which end with Ash Wednesday. The carnival ends with the grand brilé Vaval, the burning of Vaval, the king of the Kannaval, amidst the cries and wails of the crowd.
Romania and Moldova
Epiphany in these parts is called Boboteaza. The men participate in winter horse races. Winning the Epiphany race is a great honor for both horse and rider. The race is followed by festivities. A folk wisdom unique to these parts say that if a girl slips on the ice or falls into the water on Epiphany then she is surely set to marry the same year.
Along with traditions like taking bath in ice freezing waters, thousands of people jump into the ice-cold Black Sea and swim to celebrate the feast.
Fruitcakes are tossed by participants, dressed as kings and fools, and it is a part of a competition and the beginning of celebrities in Colorado.
Although the customs in other parts of the world are more or less similar to the ones mentioned there may be queer traditions that belong to a particular region, locality or community. The blessings, the Yule log, the kings cake, the parades and hymns and carols are all different ways to celebrate the revelation of the savior, Jesus Christ.
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