For Catholics (and a few other Christian traditions), Christmas isn’t over on Christmas day. We continue to celebrate for 12 days after, until the 6th of January, which is the Epiphany of the Lord, the celebration of the visit of the Magi to baby Jesus, as told in Matthew 2:1-12. (In the West, we celebrate on the Sunday between the 2-8th of January, which would of course be today.)
“Epiphany originally celebrated four different events, in the following order of importance: the Baptism of the Lord; Christ’s first miracle, the changing of water into wine at the wedding in Cana; the Nativity of Christ; and the visitation of the Wise Men or Magi. Each of these is a revelation of God to man: At Christ’s Baptism, the Holy Spirit descends and the voice of God the Father is heard, declaring that Jesus is His Son; at the wedding in Cana, the miracle reveals Christ’s divinity; at the Nativity, the angels bear witness to Christ, and the shepherds, representing the people of Israel, bow down before Him; and at the visitation of the Magi, Christ’s divinity is revealed to the Gentiles—the other nations of the earth.”
“The word epiphany means “manifestation” or “revelation” and is commonly linked in Western Christianity with the visit of the wise men (Magi) to the Christ child. Through the Magi, Christ revealed himself to the gentiles.”
“On the Feast of the Epiphany [in the West], the priest, wearing white vestments, will bless the Epiphany water, frankincense, gold, and chalk. Chalk is used to write the initials of the three magi over the doors of churches and homes. The letters stand for the initials of the Magi (traditionally named Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar), and also the phrase Christus mansionem benedicat, which translates as “may Christ bless the house”.”
If you check out Wikipedia, you can read some of the more interesting Epiphany customs all over the world, such as in Bulgaria, where a priest throws a wooden cross into a body of water and men race to retrieve it. Because it’s so cold, it’s considered an honorable act – the home of the first to retrieve the cross is said to be blessed with good health.
Happy Twelfth Night!