Epiphany is the observance of the arrival of the wise men to the place where Jesus was born. It’s the last day of the Christmas season, set apart from the nativity to show the space of time historically between the birth of Jesus and the magi’s visit. In some cultures, Epiphany is the gift-giving day rather than Christmas.
There are many ways you can mark the day with your family, but most involve some sort of crown-shaped King Cake (which is prepared and eaten in some traditions any time between Epiphany and Lent, so perhaps Christmas isn’t really over the sixth of January after all!).
We’ll share a recipe for the King Cake in a future post, which we eat for breakfast (you don’t have to do this of course, but why not?) on Epiphany when we light our Christ candle for the final time and read the lectionary scriptures.
If you have children, it’s fun to hide an almond in the cake and give a little glittery crown or a treat to the finder. This tradition originates in Sweden, where an almond is hidden in the Christmas rice pudding and the finder gets to make a special request (à la Annika’s Secret Wish). It’s a fun way to help little minds comprehend the joy of finding the treasure at last — the way the wise men were overcome when they realized they had discovered the Son of God.
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
The magi were advisers to kings, thought to have special magical or spiritual knowledge. They read the stars, interpreted dreams, and imparted their wisdom in a time when high value was placed on spiritual insight, making them very powerful and influential men. Daniel the prophet held this role in Babylon. According to his prophecy, a new king was expected at this time in history, and the alignment of the planets confirmed this king’s arrival.