Epiphany is the 12th day of Christmas and is celebrated on January 6th. It is also the end of the long period of the Christmas season. On this church holiday christians are remembering the visit to baby Jesus by the three Kings or three Wise Men. In some parts of the world on this day is the baptism of Jesus remembered.
Epiphany is seen as the celebration of the revelation of the birth of Jesus to the wider world as the gentiles are represented by the Magi or the Kings (Matthew 2:1–12). They were from a country far away, but in this story it’s a clear hint that Jesus will bring all people together.
In the story, Magi from the East are following a star to Jerusalem, where they as king Herod what he knows about a newly born ‘King of the Jews’. That doesn’t sound good for this King, it easily sounds like a challenge for his kingship. He asks advice from the priests to learn more about old prophecies. They relay a prophecy that the Messiah will be born in the city of Bethlehem. Herod sends the Magi there, and urged them: ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’
The wise men — Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar — eventually find Mary and her son, Jesus, to whom they bow and worship. The Magi give Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and then return home, for a dream warned them for the king and told them to bypass Herod.
For Roman Catholics and Protestants, this story is the main story for Epiphany. But in the Greek Orthodox Church the baptism of Jesus is celebrated. For the orthodox church this day is more important than Christmas itself.
You will see many different traditions in churches around Epiphany. During celebrations you will see kids and adults dressed as the kings and do a play of the visit of the three Kings to baby Jesus.
On Epiphany is also a celebration with the blessing of the home (because the three Kings were visiting the home of Joseph, Mary and Jesus), blessing water (because of the baptism of Jesus), exchanging gifts (because the three Kings were offering Jesus presents) and feasting.
In Spain the day is called ‘El Dia de los Tres Reyes’ (‘Three Kings Day’) where they performed big parades. The kids leave their shoes out to receive gifts from the Magi.
Explore more about Jesus. Check 8 Days with Jesus: Who is Jesus? »