The Feast of Epiphany | Sunday Observer

The Feast of Epiphany

The Feast of Epiphany is celebrated on January 6, twelve days after Christmas, to celebrate the visit of the three Wise Men (also known as the Three Kings or the Magi). It is also called the Twelfth Day of Old Christmas.

Along with the visit of the Wise Men, the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist and his preaching about the Lord and Jesus’s first miracle - the transformation of water into wine at a marriage feast in Cana in Galilee, are also commemorated.

Epiphany means revelation and it is at this time the importance of the visit of the Wise Men and Jesus’s baptism and preaching is revealed and celebrated. Epiphany is mainly celebrated by the Catholic and some Orthodox Churches.

The Eve of Epiphany is known as Twelfth Night and marks the end of the Christmas celebrations. Christmas decorations are generally taken down on this day. Superstition has it that not to do so will bring bad luck.

Epiphany is celebrated in many ways in various countries.

In Spain, Epiphany is known as the Festival of the Three Kings or Fiesta de Los tres Reyes Mages. Children in Spain and other Catalonian Lands get presents at this festival and they are believed to be delivered by the Three Kings.

On Epiphany morning Spanish bakeries will sell a special cake or pastry called Roscon, a ring shaped roll filled with chocolate or cream and decorated with a paper crown. The cake is generally baked with a figure of a King and a dried bean. If you find the king you can wear the crown . If you find the dried bean you are supposed to pay for the cake. Catalonians have a cake called Tortell or Gateau des Rois.

Galette du Rois, a flat almond cake with a toy crown cooked inside and decorated with a gold paper crown on top is the special Epiphany cake in France.The Mexican Festival of Epiphany is called El Dia de los Reyes or the Day of the Three Kings. A traditional cake, Rosca des Reyes (Three Kings cake) is baked and eaten and it has a figure of Baby Jesus hidden inside.The person who finds it gets to be the Godparent for Baby Jesus for that year.

Italian children hang stockings by the fireplace for an old lady called Befana to bring them gifts. Like father Christmas Befana too is supposed to come down the chimney. She is also known as the ‘Christmas Witch’ and is supposed to ride on a broom stick through the air. As she comes down chimneys she is supposed to be covered in soot.

Only good children get gifts while bad children will find a lump of coal or hard candy in their stockings. In poorer parts of Italy a stick is substituted for coal. Befana is said to be a good housekeeper and therefore, it is believed that she will sweep the houses she visits. Some people believe that Befana sweeps the house to rid it of the last year’s troubles. Italian families leave a little food and a glass of wine for Befana in the same way that milk and cookies are kept for Father Christmas.

In Portugal, people go Epiphany carol singing and it is called Janeiras or January Songs. In Madeira, they call the singing of Epiphany carols the Cantaros Reis (singing the kings).

In Austria people put a special sign in chalk over their doors to mark Epiphany and this sign is supposed to protect the house in the coming year. The sign is made up of the year split into two and the first letters of the names of the Three Kings, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar.

The sign for 2018 will be 20*CMB 18. Belgian children dress up as the Three Wisemen and go from house to house singing songs and people give them money or sweets just like at Halloween. In Poland too, children go singing Epiphany carols.

In Ireland Epiphany is sometimes known as Nollaignam Bean or the Women’s Christmas'. On this day the women have a holiday and the men do all the household chores and cooking.

The popular carol, We Kings 0f Orient written and set to music by John H. Hopkins Jr. describes the visit of the Magi to the Holy Babe and is a carol which has been universally popular throughout the ages.

We three kings of Orient are;
bearing gifts we traverse afar,
field and fountain, moor and mountain,
following yonder star.
O star of wonder, star of light,
star with royal beauty bright,
westward leading, still proceeding,
guide us to thy perfect light.

Born a King on Bethlehem's plain,
gold I bring to crown him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
over us all to reign.
Frankincense to offer have I;
incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising, voices raising,
worshiping God on high.
Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb.
Glorious now behold him arise;
King and God and sacrifice:
Alleluia, Alleluia,
sounds through the earth and skies.