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Epiphany 2023

Authored by British Online Archives
Published on 6th January, 2024 2 min read


Today (6/01/2024) is Epiphany, the Christian feast day commemorating the baptism of Jesus, the visit of the Magi to his birthplace in Bethlehem, and the wedding of Cana. “Epiphany” comes from the Koine Greek word ἐπιφάνεια, epipháneia, meaning to appear or reveal. The feast day is named Epiphany as it was the day that baby Jesus was revealed to the Gentiles. It is also known as “Theopany” in Eastern Christian tradition, and “Three Kings Day” in Western Christian tradition.

Whilst Epiphany is celebrated by both the Eastern and Western Churches, each commemorates different events. Eastern Churches celebrate the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Within Western Christianity the feast day primarily commemorates the coming of the Magi. Yet both traditions essentially celebrate the revelation of Christ to the world.

Epiphany falls 12 days after Christmas. Christians believe that this is how long it took the Three Kings and Wise Men to follow the star which led them to Jesus in Bethlehem. The eve of the feast is celebrated as Twelfth Night, the last day of the twelve days of Christmas. Superstition suggests that it is unlucky to have Christmas decorations hanging after Twelfth Night, so it is customary to remove all decorations by Epiphany.

The feast day is celebrated in a variety of ways. Popular Epiphany customs include singing, gift giving, winter swimming, and attending church services. In England, many people celebrate the Eve of Epiphany, Twelfth Night, by watching plays at the theatre. Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was first performed on its namesake in 1601 and remains popular with theatregoers on this day. On Epiphany, practical jokes are played, similar to April Fool’s Day. King Cake is also often consumed. Most King Cakes contain a bean or small figurine said to represent the Baby Jesus. In France, whoever receives the slice of the “Galette des Rois” containing the bean or figurine is crowned King or Queen for the day. In Switzerland, King Cake takes the form of a bread, known as Dreikönigskuchen. In Mexico, a sweet ring-shaped bread called “Rosca de Reyes” is eaten. The bread is topped with candied fruit and also contains a figurine, which is thought to bring luck to whoever finds it.

British Online Archives would like to wish all those celebrating a happy Epiphany!

Authored by British Online Archives

British Online Archives

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The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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