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Epiphany / Twelfth Night

article date: December, 2001
author: bill petro, editor: lyberty


January 6 is known on the Christian calendar as Epiphany.
It is sometimes called the "Twelfth Night", as January 6th is the traditional 12th Day of Christmas.
The full name in the Catholic tradition is "the day of the Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ, 6 January."[1]

Epiphany celebrates primarily the visitation of the Magi, when the Three Wise Men
came to visit the baby Jesus; for this reason Epiphany is also known in certain Latin cultures
as Three Kings Day.
(In the Eastern --Orthodox and Oriental-- churches, January 6th is known as the Theophany.)

So, the 12 Days of Christmas don't end at Christmas; Advent does.

Instead, the 12 days (sometimes called Christmastide) start with Christmas, and end with Epiphany.

The "season" of Epiphany lasts from January 6 through the day before Lent.

Epiphany is a Greek word that means manifestation, appearance, or
showing forth. Historically, Epiphany began in the eastern Church as
the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus Christ. As the celebration of
Christmas spread eastward, Epiphany changed to its present meaning.

In the Western churches (Protestants, Catholics, and Anglicans) it
commemorates the "adoration" of the Christ Child by the Magi as they
presented their gifts, thereby "revealing" Jesus to the world as Lord
and King. In some traditions, the "Twelfth Night" party on January 5 is
followed by the exchange of gifts on January 6th. The Russian church's
"Feast of the Nativity," Christmas, is celebrated at this time.

We rarely hear of the 12 Days of Christmas any more, except by way of
Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" play, or the words to the song "The
Twelve Days of Christmas."

* aka "event of the Magi" ,

(. . . In the West, where Christmas was the primary festival, the Epiphany was associated particularly with the Adoration of the Magi to the infant Jesus [Matthew 2:1-12], as anticipation of the universal redemption of Christ in his "Manifestation to the Gentiles." . . . )

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

528 The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee.212 In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The magi's coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations.213 Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament.214 The Epiphany shows that "the full number of the nations" now takes its "place in the family of the patriarchs", and acquires Israelitica dignitas215 (is made "worthy of the heritage of Israel").

1171 In the liturgical year the various aspects of the one Paschal mystery unfold. This is also the case with the cycle of feasts surrounding the mystery of the incarnation (Annunciation, Christmas, Epiphany). They commemorate the beginning of our salvation and communicate to us the first fruits of the Paschal mystery.


see also:

[1] http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/documents/ns_lit_doc_20010106_chiusura_en.html