What is Epiphany?
Epiphany is a special day in the Christian calendar that celebrates important moments in the life of Jesus Christ. The word "Epiphany" comes from a Greek word meaning "manifestation," signifying the revelation of Jesus to the Gentiles, symbolized by the Magi. It also marks the recognition of Jesus' divinity, notably during his baptism in the Jordan River and his first miracle at Cana in Galilee.
This festival is among the oldest and most significant in the Christian tradition, alongside Easter and Christmas. Different branches of Christianity observe Epiphany on varying dates. For instance, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, and other Western churches celebrate it on January 6. Meanwhile, some Eastern Orthodox churches observe Epiphany on January 19 due to differences in their Christmas celebrations.
The origins of Epiphany trace back to the Eastern church, where it initially included commemorating Christ's birth. However, by 354, the celebration of Christ's birth had shifted to December 25 (Christmas) in Rome. In the 4th century, the Western church began observing Epiphany on January 6. In the Western tradition, Epiphany mainly remembers the visit of the Magi, highlighting that Jesus came for the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles. In the Eastern tradition, it primarily focuses on Jesus' baptism, emphasizing the revelation that Jesus was both fully God and fully man.
In some countries, the evening before Epiphany is called Twelfth Night, and the period between December 25 and January 6 is known as the Twelve Days of Christmas. Epiphany is celebrated with special pastries in many places, and children often receive small gifts in their shoes, mirroring the gifts presented by the Magi to the infant Jesus. The holiday also involves various traditions related to water, symbolizing Jesus' baptism. This includes the blessing of houses with holy water.
In Ethiopia, Orthodox Christians celebrate Epiphany, known as Timket, with a grand festival. The festivities begin on the night before (Ketera, January 18). To honor Christ's baptism, a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, called a tabot, is taken to a body of water with great ceremony. The night is filled with prayer and hymns. The next morning, the congregation is blessed with holy water, and the tabot is brought back to its church in a colorful procession.