Epiphany is the 12th day after 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 remember the visit to baby Jesus by the three Kings or three Wise Men. In some parts of the world, on this day, the baptism of Jesus is remembered.
Jesus for all people
Epiphany is important. Here you see that the birth of Jesus is significant for the wider world. The gentiles are represented by the Magi or The Three Kings (Matthew 2:1–12). They were from a country far away, but in this story, it’s a clear hint that Jesus brings all people together (wow!)
The story of the magi from the east
In the story, Magi from the East are following a star to Jerusalem, where they ask Herod what he knows about a newly born ‘King of the Jews.’ That doesn’t sound good for this King, and it looks like a challenge to his kingship. He asks advice from the priests to learn more about old texts from the prophets. They relay a prophecy that the Messiah will be born in the city of Bethlehem. Herod sends the Magi there and urges 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.
Baptism of Jesus
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.
One of the most impressive ceremonies is the Solemn Blessing of the Water on the Feast of the Epiphany commemorating Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan.
You will see many different cultures 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, a celebration consists of the blessing of the home (because the three Kings were visiting the house 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, they call this day ‘El Dia de los Tres Reyes’ (‘Three Kings Day’). On this day, hey perform big parades. The kids leave their shoes out to receive gifts from the Magi.