The Feast of the Epiphany
Epiphany, also known as Three Kings' Day or the Feast of the Epiphany, is one of the most ancient Christian feasts. The annual celebration is scheduled at January 6, 12 days after Christmas, to commemorate the visit of Magi to child Christ. For Eastern Christians, this date is also used to memorize the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. Since its great historical significance, Epiphany is a public holiday in many countries.
Epiphany, one of the most important Christian feasts, has several highly relevant stories mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew. In chapter 2, the Gospel indicates that a star led the Magi to where Jesus lived, then they saw child Jesus and his mother Mary. After bowed and worshiped the child, they dedicated lots of treasures which includes myrrh, gold, and frankincense to him. It is the first time that gentiles visit and recognize Jesus. In chapter 3, the Gospel describes the scene of the baptism of Jesus. Jesus was baptized and went out of the water, meanwhile, a Spirit of God got out from opening heaven, then alighted, like a dove, on him and a strong voice from heaven gave him best wishes. It is the time that God embodied himself to the world. These two stories show that the gospel is not only for native, but also for gentiles, and, definitely, for the whole world.
These two Bible stories make the celebration of Epiphany has two different themes. Epiphany, for western churches, is a commemoration of the visit of Magi. During the Epiphany, over the door of church writes the initials of Magi and a phrase "May Christ bless the house". Pastors with white vestments will praise Epiphany gold, frankincense, and myrrh. On the age that calendars were not covered, the date of Easter would also be announced and publicized during this event. On the other hand, for eastern churches, Epiphany, the third-ranked feasts, only behind Pentecost and Easter, is celebrated for "Θεοφάνεια" which means "divine manifestation". As the Bible mentioned that God presented himself to the world after the baptism of Christ, the "Blessing of Water" is one of the most important parts during the ceremony. The water which blessed on this even named "Theophany Water" or "Holy Water". People will bring the water home to bless themselves, as well as their families. After that, the priests will throw a cross into a pool or river. Believers may jump into the water to "save" the cross, and the one who returns the cross to the priests will be delivered a special blessing.
Epiphany is also a public holiday to celebrate the visit of three kings. In French, Epiphany is known as "The Day of Kings". On this date, a celebration party will be held with a round cake. In Spain, drummer with the medieval dress can always be found in the street, which symbolizes the arrival of three kings. Kids will fill their shoes with grain for king's horses in Epiphany Evening. The next day, they will find kings' gifts in their place.