from Living the Good News
The feast of Christ’s epiphany or “manifestation” originated among the Christians of Egypt in the third century. The date of January 6 was probably chosen because the Egyptians celebrated their great feast of the winter solstice on that day, in honor of the sun god Horus.
The Christian feast was primarily a commemoration of the Lord’s baptism, as it still is for the Eastern Orthodox churches. The feast became known in the West during the fourth century, about the same time as the feast of the Nativity on December 25 began to be celebrated.
In the West, the feast of the Epiphany acquired some of the Christmas associations, particularly the story of the Magi’s visit. This visit was regarded as the first manifesta- tion of Christ to the Gentiles.
It is this emphasis on the manifestation of Christ that permeates the entire season that follows the feast of the Epiphany. In Christ we see the fullness of God dwelling in a human being. This fullness is Christ’s by right, but it is to be ours as adopted heirs of God. On this feast, we celebrate the glory that is to be revealed in us when Christ is “all in all.”
One Epiphany custom was a procession of children, dressed as the magi, carrying a star on a pole and going from house to house singing star carols. Another was the baking of a special “kings’ cake” with a coin in it. (See Plan an Epiphany Party for a King’s Cake recipe.) Whoever found the coin would be king of the Epiphany Day celebrations. Traditionally, January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas, is the day when Christmas trees, decorations and creches are removed from home and church after the Epiphany worship services.
Living the Good News is a lectionary-based curriculum for all ages published by Morehouse Education Resources, a division of Church Publishing Incorporated.