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Epiphany

There are several traditions and names for celebrating the Epiphany, but what is it?

The Epiphany is celebrated each January 6 and is a day dedicated to the birth of Christ, which includes a nod toward the three Kings who came to visit Him. The word "epiphany" means "an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity."


Appearance is correct, as Christ revealed himself in the form of a newborn babe to the Three Wise Men, who traveled from their countries to pay tribute to the Son of God.

It is also a reference to the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist. The six Sundays following Epiphany are known as the time of manifestation. The Gospel of Matthew describes three Wise Men, named Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, who were told of Christ's birth and set off, following the Star of Bethlehem, to meet the baby Jesus.


Each king brought with him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to represent Jesus' elevated position, divine birth and mortality respectively.  Historically, Christmas was celebrated each day from Christmas Eve to the Epiphany, with January 6 being as large celebration as December 25.


Though some Protestant churches celebrate a season of Epiphany from January 6 to Ash Wednesday, the Catholic Church observes Epiphany as a single day, with some in America celebrating the Epiphany feast the Sunday following January 6.  In Spain, children believe their Christmas presents are delivered by the Three Wise Men on January 6, while in Venice, children believe "La Befana," an imaginary old woman in Italian folklore, brings gifts to them on the Epiphany Day.