Epiphany is one of the three oldest festival days of the
Christian Church. It commemorates, according to tradition, “the
first manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.”
Epiphany, January 6 is also known as “Little Christmas,” or
“Three Kings Day.” In some cultures, the gifts (which represent
the gifts given by the Magi to Jesus, or the gift of Jesus) are
given on this day, rather than on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
For some, this is a day of special feasting with elaborate
In the churches of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the
recognition of Christ’s divinity occurs first at his baptism by
John in the Jordan River. For these churches this was the
breakthrough moment, the occasion on which it was recognized that
this man was in fact the Son of God.
In churches of the West the evening preceding Epiphany is called
Twelfth Night. Hence, the twelve days of Christmas.
In About.com, Charles Henderson writes:
Personally, I like the idea that Christmas is actually a season
which stretches out from December 25 all the way through to the
New Year, culminating in Epiphany. This simple fact allows one
to separate the secular and commercial Christmas from the more
reflective period in which the actual significance of Jesus
Christ can be contemplated. A period of twelve days allows an
appropriate amount of time in which to probe to a deeper level
of understanding. Thus, Epiphany may redeem Christmas, and this
time of the year can indeed by an occasion for illumination and
discovery, a breakthrough moment in which those things that are
most real (and thus most divine) in human life come shining
Traditionally, the word epiphany means “a showing forth” or
“manifestation.” In common usage it sometimes refers to a sudden
recognition of something that was there all along, but for which
there was only a vague intuition. Often the new recognition can
be seen to have a cosmic dimension and can certainly be life-
This cosmic aspect of a seemingly insignificant event is well-
represented by the Epiphany day story of the Magi who followed a
star in search of a new-born king whom they finally discovered in
a very unlikely Jewish home.
During Advent we often heard the word Emmanuel and the phrase
“God with us” as a way to describe the birth of Jesus Christ.
Epiphany is a time for discovering what this phrase truly means.
Check out Charles Henderson at About.com .