Feast of the Epiphany January 4, 2015

magiThis Sunday we celebrate the 4th Epiphany of our Lord: the visitation of the Wise Men or Magi. It is one of the oldest Christian feasts it marks the end of Christmastide—the Twelve Days of Christmas.

There are many interpretations of the significance of the gifts the magi brought baby Jesus:  gold, frankincense and myrrh (Gospel of Matthew 2:11) were gifts to honor a king at that time in history. The Book of Isaiah, when describing Jerusalem’s glorious restoration, tells of nations and kings who will come and “bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:6). Many believe that the number of the gifts is what led to the tradition of the Three Wise Men.

In many parts of Europe, the celebration of Epiphany is as important as the celebration of Christmas. In Italy and other Mediterranean countries, Christians exchange gifts on Epiphany—the day on which the Wise Men brought their gifts to the Christ Child—while in Northern Europe, it’s not unusual to give gifts on both Christmas and Epiphany (often with smaller gifts on each of the twelve days of Christmas in between).