Tag Archives: Epiphany

Have a blessed Epiphany

Today, January 6, is Epiphany. It is the last day of the Christmas season and is also known as Three Kings Day and Twelth Night, depending on the country and custom. To celebrate this day in a meaningful way, in this post, I will share information about the three kings, an excerpt from the Bible about their visit to the Christ child, some customs associated with Epiphany, a short story about one of these customs and a carol. Enjoy!

Origin of Epiphany

Like many Christian holidays, Epiphany has ancient origins. In pre-Christian times, Egyptians drew water from the Nile for holy water, as it was considered to be purest on January 6. This festival became associated with the baptism of Christ when Egyptians converted to Christianity. Four hundred years after Christ died, the date of December 25 was fixed as the date of his birth and Christmas began to be celebrated as an important Christian observance, heavily influenced by existing stories and customs, and the date of January 6 soon became marked as the finale of the Christmas festival.

The Gospel According to Matthew

The Biblical account of the journey and visit of the three wise men is as follows:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the King, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

And when he had gathered the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should  be born.

And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet.

And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

When they had heard the king, they departed, and lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

And when they were departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt.

The Three Kings

Three Magi, or wise men, were said to visit Jesus. In the early Christian times, they were deonoted as Kings although they were not known to have dominions. Magi were Persian priests, scientists and astrologers who had observed the stars on the night of Jesus’ birth. Legend has it that they brought three gifts to the Christ child.

  • Balthazar, from Ethiopia, brought frankincense. Frankincenes is an incense that was used in relgious rites. The symbolism is that the child was acknowledged as a future priest.
  • Melchior, from Arabia or India, brougt gold. Gold was a tribute to a young king.
  • Caspar, possibly Greek, brought myrrh. Myrrh was an incense and ointment. It was a symbol of a healer.

Although I do not know if it is still done today, in some countries, it was the custom in the past for boys or men to dress up as the Three Kings and process or deliver gifts. We are accustomed to our children receiving gifts on Christmas Day but in those countries, Kings brought the gifts, just as they did to the Christ Child, on January 6. In Italy, La Befana, an old woman, delivers the gifts that day.

We Three Kings

One of my favorite carols is We Three Kings. I like how the melody sounds like the slow plodding of camels and kings on their way to Bethlehem. Listen to the carol as sung by the great jazz singer and Virginian Ella Fitzgerald.

Three Young Kings

The beautiful and moving short story, Three Young Kings, written by George Sumner Albee in 1956, describes the procession of the Three Kings in a Cuban town. You can listen to it here or read the text here.

The King Cake

In France, they still celebrate Epiphany with a King Cake. A delicious pastry is topped with a golden crown. Whomever finds the baby inside is king for a day. This tradition has continued in New Orleans, although now King Cakes are more associated with Mardi Gras.

You can order and buy delicious, French-style King Cakes or King Cake slices at the franchise restaurant, La Madeleine, typically through January 6, while supplies last.

Farewell until November!

For many years, my Christmas has extended past New Year’s until January 6, when I wistfully take down my tree and put away my Christmas decorations. Epiphany also marks the last day of the season I post on Cool Yule. Please visit often and come back for new content about the winter holidays in November 2022. May God bless you and keep you all year. — Mary

Happy Epiphany Day!

Today, we celebrate the last day of the Christmas Season, Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, as is known in some cultures. This is also the 12th day of Christmas. Epiphany celebrates the day Jesus was visited by the three kings (or three wiseman) who had observed a star that foretold he was king of the Jews. The story is not told in Luke but in Matthew…

They set out; and there ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

The word “epiphany” comes from a Greek word whcih means something that is manifested. In France and now in the United States, some celebrate this day with a golden-crowned King Cake in which is concealed a trinket or small baby Jesus. The tradition is that whomever finds the trinket is given the crown and is “king” for the day. The French galette de rois is a flaky, delicious pastry and can be purchased at French bakeries, including La Madeleine.

And so ends another Christmas. It was a difficult year but there is always hope. I hope next Christmas we will no longer be in a pandemic and can resume the in-person joys of the Christmas season.

Epiphany marks the final post of the year on The Cool Yule Blog. It is has been my pleasure to celebrate the winter holidays with you. I wish you excellent health and happiness in 2021. Please join me for articles on goal-setting and self-care on my Best Life blog. I begin writing about fall and Halloween celebrations in September at Autumn in Virginia. I hope to see you back here in November for new articles and events posted on the Cool Yule Blog. Take care and thank you for reading.

 

Celebrate Epiphany with a Kings’ Cake

January 6 is Epiphany, or the twelfth day of Christmas.  It is traditionally celebrated as the final day of the Christmas season, is a feast celebration, and marks the day that the wise men brought gifts to the Christ Child.

In our household, as in many, Christmas greenery is left in place until Epiphany passes.

When I lived in France, it was traditional to eat a delicious Kings’ Cake on this day, called a “galette des rois.” It’s different from the Mardi Gras King Cake you might have seen, which is shaped like a ring and decorated with purple, gold, and green sugar, and beads.  The Mardi Gras cakes are also offered on Epiphany through Mardi Gras, or the Tuesday before Lent.

The French Kings’ cake is a flakier pastry concoction, however, more like a Pithviers than a layer cake, and typically has almond paste inside, and is generally eaten during Epiphany.   The cake concealed a small baby or other nativity figure, and was adorned with a gold paper crown.  If you got the token in your slice of cake, you got to wear the crown and would be king for the day.

It can be hard to find a real, French-style king’s cake in this area.  I saw one at La Madeleine Bakery and Cafe this week, however, for about $16.