Epiphany marks the 12th day of Christmas officially falling on the 6th January, and it marks the end of the festive season.
The Twelfth Night (Epiphany) also marks a visit to the baby Jesus by The Magi, (the three Kings, or Wise Men). The word 'Epiphany' comes from Greek and means 'manifestation'.
It celebrates 'the revelation of God in his Son as human in Jesus Christ'.
On this feast of the Epiphany we celebrate the revelation of who Christ is. The visit of the wise men reminds us that Jesus came as the Saviour of all nations, including ours.
We worship God who wants all people to be saved.
According to the Gospel of Matthew, the Magi found baby Jesus by following a star across the desert to Bethlehem.
Western tradition has chosen three as the number of the Wise Men and even found exotic names for them, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. We may imagine that they travelled from Persia or South Arabia, though Matthew simply indicates that they came from the East and does not give them names. However, the gospel leaves no doubt that they were men of conviction, intellectuals, with enquiring minds and adventuresome.
On the night of Christ’s birth, a mysterious light appeared in the sky which became a luminous star that persisted in the western heavens (see Matthew 2:1, 2). Impressed with its import, the wise men turned once more to the sacred scrolls. As they tried to understand the meaning of the sacred writings, they determined to go in search of the Messiah. Like Abraham, they knew not at first where they were to go, but followed as the guiding star led them on their way.
According to St Matthew 2:11, they offered symbolic gifts to Jesus of gold, frankincense and myrrh:
the gold representing his royal standing; frankincense his divine birth; and myrrh his mortality.
During the medieval period, Christmas was celebrated for the 12 days from Christmas Eve on December 24, until the Epiphany. Even up until the 19th century, January 6 was as big a celebration as Christmas Day.
Epiphany Eve (also known as Twelfth Night) marks the end of the traditional Christmas celebrations and is the time when you were meant to take Christmas decorations down - although some people leave them up until Candlemas (February 2nd)
The poinsettia is sometimes thought as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus. The red coloured leaves symbolize the blood of Christ. The white leaves represent his purity.
In celebrating Epiphany we are celebrating the greatest proof of goodness there has ever been, of God’s deep personal love for us. For it was out of love, that the Father gave us the Son, and gave him to be our Light, our Saviour, our King and our Joy. His present to us is nothing less than the divine presence in our lives.
You could be forgiven for thinking that as the Epiphany is the twelfth day of Christmas that it has some relationship to the popular Christmas song, the 12 days of Christmas and that this song is Christian in origin concealing references to Christianity. However, research has found that this is unlikely. The first references to this song can be found in a French children’s book in the 1700’s and with some amendments made popular in Britain in the 1900’s during Victorian times. It is thought that it is just a 'memory and forfeits' game and while tenuous links can be made to Christianity, it is unlikely that this is the case.