Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

January 6 The Feast of Epiphany

I have always loved Epiphany. The vision of the three wise men riding on camels, following a star to find a baby in a manger delights my soul. There is a flip side, of course, as the wicked King Herod sends his soldiers to kill all the male children under two years old, and the Christ child, whose parents Mary and Joseph are warned by an angel, have miraculously escaped to hide in Egypt.

Friday, in church, I learned something I had never known before: The Feast of the Epiphany was traditionally the second most important celebration in the church year, just after Easter. I had always assumed it was Christmas. I was wrong!

Not only is Christmas not the second most important, it is also not the third most important – that is, if I remember what Father Andy said, the Assumption. He said that we didn’t begin to celebrate the birth of the child in Bethleham, as a church, until around the 4th century.

Here is the story, in one of our readings for today:

Matthew 2:1-12

2In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men* from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,* and have come to pay him homage.’ 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah* was to be born. 5They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd* my people Israel.” ’

7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men* and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,* until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped,* they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

January 6, 2008 - Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Statistics | , ,


  1. Christmas became more commercialized which kept Epiphany away. I wasn’t aware of this either!
    By the way, there is a superstitious belief in England that all the Christmas decoration should be pulled down by Jan 6th, else it will bring bad luck!(Maybe this also avoided Epiphany)

    Comment by Joel | January 6, 2008 | Reply

  2. I know that superstition, Joel, and it doesn’t make any sense to me, since many people celebrate Epiphany as part of the 12 Days of Christmas. You’d think they would take the tree down after Epiphany. But, as you said, once the feast of Christmas assumed precedence, the old ways passed. I am superstitious, too, and have all my stuff put away before the New Year rolls in! 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 6, 2008 | Reply

  3. Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate “The Feast of Epiphany” today too!

    Comment by kinano | January 6, 2008 | Reply

  4. I understand that in the Eastern Orthodox church, Epiphany really IS the big celebration, Kinan – is that true?

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 6, 2008 | Reply

  5. It is true especially for Armenian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox and Greek Orthodox. Epiphany is huge in Safita as well and is considered the most holy of days while it might not be revered as much in other parts of Syria. But for the Armenian and Coptic churches it is the truest celebration of Christ.

    Comment by kinano | January 7, 2008 | Reply

  6. I’m a little late with my comment, but I wanted to share what Epiphany is like in Spain, where I am visiting family right now. First off, it is in many ways more important than Christmas! On Christmas Eve, children in Spain might receive a gift or two, but Santa Claus (Papa Noel) just isn’t all that important. (Although every year there is more commercialism.) Christmas Eve, known as the Good Night or Noche Buena, is when all the family gets together for a big dinner. (Followed by an equally big dinner on New Year’s Eve, or Old Night – Noche Vieja)

    The big day for kids in Spain is “Los reyes” or the Kings’Day, what we call Epiphany. The kings are the ones who bring gifts to the children, not Santa Claus. Families share a special cake on this day and visit nativity scenes together. Spain really is a great place to pass the holidays. They’ve been celebrating since before Christmas, and the holidays don’t end until tomorrow.

    Comment by global gal | January 7, 2008 | Reply

  7. Oooh! I want to go to Spain next year for the holidays! Lucky you! And never too late, Global Gal! People comment on my earlier posts all the time!

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 7, 2008 | Reply

  8. i’m doing a priject on spain i need the most information i can get =)

    Comment by squadsquad | December 21, 2008 | Reply

  9. in spain the feast of epiphany is a really BIG holiday

    Comment by squadsquad | December 21, 2008 | Reply

  10. Good luck with your project, squad.

    Comment by intlxpatr | December 21, 2008 | Reply

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