Celebrating Epiphany- Who does and how?


Hi. I would like to hear from those who strongly celebrate Epiphany. Why do you and what do you do?


I live in an area for which the celbration of the Feast of the Epiphany (aka little Christmas) is of paramount importance. On this day a particular kind of cake is baked. It is a sweet cake of bread type dough, highly seasoned with cinnamon, fashioned into a large oval ring. Into the ring is placed a small plastic baby. The ring is baked and then coated in a sugary icing which is colored purple, green, and gold. The ring is brought to offices and homes and is eaten by all. Whoever “finds” the baby buys the next cake.

The cake is called a King Cake in honor of the three Wise Men. The baby, of course, is Jesus. The colors represent the royalty of the kings (purple), the faith they had in following the star (green) and the gifts they brought to the babe (gold).

We do not make or eat this cake until January 6th nor do we take our Christmas trees down until the 7th (unlike my protestant neighbors who take the tree down the day after Christmas). There are TWELVE days of Christmas and they do not end until, da, da, da…January 6th - the Feast of the the Epiphany.

So what does the king cake and the Epiphany have to do with anything? It is the official start of Mardi Gras! The very first of the carnival balls are held that night. We will have king cake at the office (we usually do it on Friday) every week until Mardi Gras - Fat Tuesday - the day before Ash Wednesday.


As I was reading your description of the cake, I thought “that sounds like a Mardi Gras cake” and I was so surprised to hear of the connection with Epiphany. I never knew that --thanks for sharing!


We celebrate it as a “last day of Christmas”, with a particularly nice dinner and the realization that it is a farewell to the season.

If you don’t start celebrating Christmas halfway through December, it is just right. Otherwise, by the time Epiphany rolls around, you’re past ready to get that dry tree down and stow the decorations!


We do! We have a few traditions related to Epiphany:

  1. In our nativity scene the 3 kings start far away and gradually make it up to the manger, arriving on Epiphany.
  2. We get shoe boxes and put hay in them for the camels (we might put weeds, grass, or any other substitute that is more convenient instead). This can serve to help get weeds out of your garden if you have any :). The next morning the hay is gone (or mostly gone leaving a trail to the door) and we find presents left by the three kings instead.
  3. Mass


The Eastern Rite of the Church is very serious about it’s celebration. There are many who will not have presents until that time, as the presents come with the Wise Men.

            One of the most impressive ceremonies of the Byzantine Rite is the Solemn Blessing of the Water on the Feast of the Epiphany commemorating Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan. The Epiphany, one of the most ancient and venerable festivities, originated in Palestine where it was celebrated with a vigil and special services on the spot where, according to Christian tradition, Our Lord was actually baptized. St. Gregory the Wonderworker [of Pontus] (died about 270) is the first witness to present the Epiphany to us as the "saving proclamation of Christ’s Baptism." *(cf. Homily on     Christ’s Baptism, *1)
   The Feast of the Epiphany was established as a solemn feast in the Eastern Church in the middle of the IV century as proclaimed in the *Apostolic Constitutions: *"Let the Epiphany, in which the Lord manifested to us His own divinity, be to you the most honored festival and let it be celebrated on the sixth day of January." (cf. *Apostolic     Constitutions *V, 13) 

      The Greek word *"epiphany" *means manifestation and applied by the Christians to the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, it specifically meant the manifestation of His divinity. St. John Chrysostom (died 407) elucidates: "Why do we call this day Epiphany? Because Jesus Christ manifested Himself to all people, not when He was born, but, rather, when He was baptized. Until that time He was unknown to the people, as testified by St. John the Baptist, saying,: ‘There stands among you One, Whom you don’t know!’ (Jn. 1:26)." (cf. *Homily on the Epiphany, *2)

   **In the Old Slavonic, the feast is called *"Bohojavlenije," ***equivalent     to the Greek *"Theophany," *which means the manifestation of the Godhead. This word, however, more clearly reflects the manifestation of the Blessed Trinity at Christ’s baptism as poetically described in the troparion of the Feast: "At Your baptism in the Jordan…"

…Among the various petitions mentioned in the ceremony during the blessing of the water is *the sanctification of homes. *With this the Church imposes a duty and obligation upon the priests to bless the homes of the faithful entrusted to their pastoral care at the beginning of the New Year. Theologically speaking, the blessing of homes constitutes an *invocative blessing, *meaning that by his prayer and by the sprinkling of the Holy Water the priest invokes God’s protection upon the home and those living in it. The prayer, reprinted on the back cover, best explains its meaning.

  As our souls, so also our homes become tainted by the sins of those living in them and, consequently, lose God’s protective power. Every year, then, at the Feast of the Epiphany, they should be blessed again to secure for them God’s blessings and protection. Just as the faithful cleanse their soul of sin at least ONCE A YEAR, and the church is blessed with the newly blessed water every year, so should the homes of the faithful be yearly blessed to invoke God’s blessings and protection on it and its inhabitants.

   As we renew the insurance on our home every year, so we should renew our insurance of God’s protection and his blessing which is of greater importance and more effective. As we welcome our priest during the holy season of Epiphany to bless our home, let us be mindful that he is bringing to us the "blessing of Jordan," and that unless God protect and bless our home, we "labor in vain." (Ps. 127:1)
     **TROPARION, Tone 1**
     At Your baptism in the Jordan, O Lord, the worship of the Trinity was revealed, for the voice of the Father bore witness to You by calling You His beloved Son, and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of these words.
     You have shown Yourself today to the world, and Your light, O Lord, has shined upon those who, recognizing You, cry out to You: You have come and revealed Yourself, O inaccessible Light.




** PRAYER FOR THE BLESSING OF HOMES** O God, our True Light and Savior, You have deigned to be baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist to renew all men by the cleansing water of regeneration (Tit. 3:5) and to enter under the roof of Zacchaeus, bringing salvation to him and his house (Lk. 19:9), now, You, O Lord, protect also all those who dwell in this house from all harm and injury; grant them Jordan’s blessing, purification of soul and body, and good health; and hear all their supplications, which are for their salvation and life eternal.

    For blessed are You, O Lord, together with Your Eternal Father and Holy Spirit, now and     ever, and forever. Amen.

This came from Byzantines.net. There is more information at the link below.


We celebrated Ephipany also called Little Christmas or Women’s Christmas. We usually went to Mass and after Mass, my father would bless the house (occasionally we would invite one of the priests to dinner and he would bless the house for us). We would open our last Christmas gift too (we opened the others on Christmas Eve and Day but we always kept one wrapped till Jan 6th). On this day women, especially mothers, do no work so my father, brother and other male members of the family did the house work and cooked dinner. Men also gave adult female relatives small presents to thank them for all the hard work they do during the year.
We had a special cake with a coin hidden in it and whoever found the coin was the “king” or “queen” for the day. We moved the 3 kings to the manger and sang “We 3 kings of Orient are”. That night or on Jan 5th (12th night)we used to look for Orion in the sky because the 3 stars that make up his belt are called the Magi. When we were teenagers I remember reading “The Journey of the Magi” by T. S. Elliot on Jan 5th.
On the evening of Jan 6th we used to choose a new patron saint for the year. My mother had typed up a long list of different saints’ names, cut them into slips and we would choose one from a bowl. We used to look up about that saint and then tell the rest of our family what we had found. Sometimes this would continue for several weeks, depending on the saints we got.

We took all decorations down on Jan 7th except for the crib which stayed up till Feb 2nd.



We had a 12th Night party last year for Epiphany. It was fun! We also had a three kings cake (but we used a bean instead of a plastic baby and the person who found it got to wear a crown for the rest of the night). We played games (including an old-fashioned game called Whist) and had people wear costumes.


that weekend is usually when CCD resumes after Christmas, and is our only Christmas-y celebration, since we don’t do parties in advent. We have a family fiesta for Los Tres Santos Reyes, the 3 holy Kings. there is a cake, we get a mom to bake it, as the bakery cakes are pretty dry and uninteresting, there is a plastic baby inside, and whoever finds it has to have a party for Candelaria, Feb. 2, the traditional end of the Christmas season. for our purposes, the class that finds the baby has the party.

This is when we do the whole Christmas story, have games and activities based on the event of the 3 kings and its meaning, Christ light of the whole world etc. This is our actual teaching on the meaning of Epiphany as well so we tie the catechetical themes to that.


Wow, what wonderful testimonies to your families and your faith you have all given.

May the good Lord continue to bless your devotion and celebration. Also, may this thread be a witness and a new tradition for many that never throught or were aware of this celebration at this time of year. IN the name of Jesus amen.


Last year we didn’t put up a Christmas tree until Christmas Eve (you would be amazed how cheap trees are at that time!). We left it up until the Epiphany. Even though we didn’t do anything special I made sure that my kids knew the reason why I chose to do it this way (less materialism, more spiritualism). This year I plan to get them all a “religious article” for that day. i.e. maybe a medal with their patron saint, a book, etc…


We always have celebrated Epiphany as a Little Christmas. I don’t know why my family does- it has been a cultural thing like our advent deco is usually just one candle in the window at home.

I ordered the Divinity Board Game. I thought I would give it to the kids for St. Nicholas Day. then we will move slowly into decorating and advent. Unfortunately I have a bunch of catering jobs the first weekend of Advent. But we will still do our wreath and use the readings from the Divine Office Vol 1. Then of course there is Assumption and OLG. Then we will continue through Christmas our big celebration. No idea yet when we will get a tree. Then I’m taking ideas from this thread to move the flow through with continuity. I will use all the ideas above to enrich our 12 days, Epiphany and move us smoothly into Lent. That was what I was seeking. More ways to keep the flow smooth and continuous for the kids.

Thanks to everyone who responded to my question.:thumbsup:


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