We’ve all heard of the song “12 days of Christmas”, but did you know that Christians actually used to celebrate Christmas for 12 whole days?
What is the Epiphany?
- The Epiphany is a Christian feast day that is also known as Theophany, the 12th day of Christmas, or Three Kings' Day.
- It celebrates the revelation of God to man.
- It falls on January 6 and marks the official end to the festive season.
- The word Epiphany comes from Greek and means "manifestation".
What do we celebrate on this feast?
The most important event celebrated on this feast is the visitation of the Magi. However, four different events were originally celebrated on this feast:
- The Baptism of the Lord: When the Holy Spirit descended, and the voice of God the Father was heard declaring that Jesus is His Son.
- Christ's first miracle: When Jesus performed His first miracle of changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana, revealing His divinity.
- The Nativity of Christ: When the angels appeared bearing "good news of great joy" to the shepherds, who bowed down before Him, representing the people of Israel. (Luke 2:10)
- The Visitation of the Magi: When Christ's divinity was revealed to the Gentiles—the other nations of the earth.
How is the Epiphany celebrated around the world?
Pope Francis has held the Vatican's annual Holy Mass for the Epiphany in St Peter's Basilica, Rome, on 6 January 2018, but mass is not the only way Epiphany is celebrated across the world.
- East Europe/Turkey/Cyprus: Greek Orthodox priests throw a cross into water and divers compete to catch it first.
- Russia: In accordance with ancient church tradition, Orthodox Christians bless the nearest body of water and they dunk three times in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, to symbolize the baptism of Christ. An estimated 33 million come out to do the ice plunge when the water’s temperature can reach up to (-67 F)!
- New York, USA: Annual Three Kings Day parade is held with thousands of colorful floats and puppets.
- In countries historically shaped by Western Christianity (Roman Catholicism, Protestantism), the customs involve gift giving, where the children leave their shoes out, filled with bits of hay to feed the Magi’s animals, and they find gifts in place of the hay in the morning, replaced by their parents.
- Another tradition that occurs in these countries is the eating of a Rosca de Reyes (King’s Ring), a sweet bread shaped like a wreath with a figurine of a baby Jesus baked inside. Customarily, the person who finds the figurine is expected to host a party on Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas), celebrated on February 2nd.
Symbolism behind the Magi’s Journey
Although it is impossible to determine exactly who these men were or where they came from, the Magi are now known by the names: Melchior, Caspar and Balthasar, where Melchior gave the gift of gold, Caspar gave the gift of frankincense, and Balthasar gave the gift of myrrh. Together, these Magi represent the three races of men, Europe, Arabia and Africa respectively, descended from the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham and Japeth. Their gifts were both practical and symbolic; meant for a king, and perhaps, in the case of myrrh, foretelling the later Passion of Christ. Gold represented his royal standing, frankincense his divine birth and myrrh his mortality.
So were the Magi kings, astronomers, or both?
The three would have studied astronomy as kings, so the two terms are not contradictory, but rather complimentary. These kings studied the stars and planets, interpreting the meaning behind cosmic events.
What became of the Magi?
We do not know their ultimate fate, but their relics came to Constantinople at some time during the Byzantine era, and were subsequently brought to different locations over the centuries. Today, the Magi, in contrast to the shepherds who represent the outcasts and sinners, serve as a reminder to Christians that the greatest amongst us bowed before Christ in awe and adoration.
At our workshop, we have many Bethlehem olive wood hand carved religious pieces which are produced to help Christians in the Holy Land and around the world share their faith and glory to God in the highest with the best quality. Almost all of our hand carved olive wood Nativity scenes and sets include the Three Wise Men or the Magi.
Hand-carved Olive Wood Nativity Set by Bethlehem Handicrafts. The most precious Holy land’s gift is yours. This musical carved box is in a circular motion online available for you. The olive wood carved nativity is made from Bethlehem’s olive wood in the city of Bethlehem. This ancient vivid cave expresses Christ’s birth – indeed, his birth resembles the birth and revive of love, hope, faith and peace. Thousand years ago, this artistic and olive wood cave could portray the Christian history with a wonder of the divine child that is not only religious but also humane as a fact of nature. Of course, the glowing of the star of Bethlehem is the guidance of the Shepherds in the Holy Land for the divine child ‘Jesus Christ’.
We, the Bethlehem Handicrafts’ team, are so proud to put the Holy Land in your hand by giving you a variety of the best and the most outstanding original Bethlehem’s olive wood carvings with the best quality made in the Holy Land.