The Feast of the Epiphany

As the discussion in the comments has illuminated, today marks the end of Christmas and the start of Epiphanytide, though in another sense the “Christmastide” continues for some time until Candlemas. 

Growing up I was misled by Christmas pageants and Nativity scenes to believe that all the events happened at once: the Magi standing around the manger with the shepherds and the donkeys, everyone gathered together in celebration as we were ourselves come together as a family on Christmas morning. Epiphany was never mentioned. Of course it makes sense, though, that a journey in those days took quite some time. The mind prefers the easy, complete picture. 

Epiphany Eve

The relevant festival for today seems to be informal: it is the eve of Epiphany, which brings about some duties and preparations. The formal feasts for today are several, including St. Syncletica who died after she gave away her wealth to the poor; and St. John Neumann, an important Eastern European figure of the 19th century. 

For the purpose of the Christmas holiday, the Epiphany marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas (but not the Christmastide, which lasts until Candlemas at the end of what is also known as Epiphanytide -- see discussion below).

In many Western Churches, the eve of the feast is celebrated as Twelfth Night (Epiphany Eve). The Monday after Epiphany is known as Plough Monday.

Popular Epiphany customs include Epiphany singing, chalking the door, having one's house blessed, consuming Three Kings Cake, winter swimming, as well as attending church services. It is customary for Christians in many localities to remove their Christmas decorations on Epiphany Eve (Twelfth Night),  although those in other Christian countries historically remove them on Candlemas, the conclusion of Epiphanytide. According to the first tradition, those who fail to remember to remove their Christmas decorations on Epiphany Eve must leave them untouched until Candlemas, the second opportunity to remove them; failure to observe this custom is considered inauspicious.

So if you are going to remove Christmas decorations according to this tradition, today is the day for it (as we are doing here). If you want to eat Three Kings Cakes tomorrow, today may be the day for preparing them. At least if you are Roman Catholic; the Eastern church has a whole different set of dates for all of this, and a more intense set of traditions about it.

If you are wondering about the name, it is Greek, which might explain why the Greek Orthodox church is more wedded to it.

The word Epiphany is from Koine Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epipháneia, meaning manifestation or appearance. It is derived from the verb φαίνειν, phainein, meaning "to appear". In classical Greek it was used for the appearance of dawn, of an enemy in war, but especially of a manifestation of a deity to a worshiper (a theophany). In the Septuagint the word is used of a manifestation of the God of Israel (2 Maccabees 15:27). In the New Testament the word is used in 2 Timothy 1:10 to refer either to the birth of Christ or to his appearance after his resurrection, and five times to refer to his Second Coming.

The Evils of Coca-Cola

I'm not doing political posts by intention during the Christmas season, so look for those to resume not sooner than Monday. This one is more about corporate corruption, though it bleeds over into government corruption -- especially the manner in which the government refused to discuss obesity as a risk during the COVID massacre period, which doubtless cost lives and in poor, disadvantaged communities. 

We can hold fire on the rest of it until Monday. Hopefully the House Speakership won't be determined by then, or ever, so we can talk at length about it.

Feast of Elizabeth Ann Seton

Today is the feast day for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, an eighteenth century(!) saint who is by far the furthest removed from the events of Christmas. She is the first US citizen to be canonized. She converted to Catholicism fairly late in life, and was influential in the establishment of the faith in a new nation dominated by Protestant churches.

This raises a general point I have been wondering about regarding the Twelve Days of Christmas. Some of these feasts, solemnities, and memorials are clearly "of" the 12 Days, such as Childermas, the Feast of the Holy Family, and the Solemnity of Mary. Others are perhaps only 'during' the 12 days, including perhaps this one, St. Thomas Beckett, and some others. I've never seen a clear answer on which is which. Is St. Stephen's Day 'of' or 'during'? John the Evangelist? 

Perhaps one of you has better information on that than I do. D29?

Tomorrow is Epiphany Eve, which closes the 12 Days: The Feast of the Epiphany, which has a clear connection to Christmas, is outside the range. So too the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, which is Monday the 8th. 

Happy Birthday Tolkien

Today is also the 131st birthday of JRR Tolkien. The age has an analogue:
Since Bilbo had been a ring-bearer, he was allowed to accompany Frodo to the Undying Lands. On September 22, 3021, Bilbo turned 131 and became the oldest hobbit ever to have lived. On September 29, he, Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, and Frodo had boarded a ship docked at the Grey Havens and sailed away from Middle-earth. His fate afterward is not known but as he too was a mortal being, he most likely died in the light of the Blessed Realm of Valinor.

Memorial of the Holy Name

January 3rd marks the day on which the baby was formally named by Joseph. One might object that the Son’s name predates the formality, having been given by the Father (perhaps in eternity) and certainly transmitted to Joseph by an Angel in a dream well before. However, the incarnation was an incarnation into a particular time and place, family and tradition; and Joseph was assigned thereby the formal duty of naming the child. 

Today marks the day on which that naming occurred, and is an occasion to reflect on the name and its meaning. 

Feast of St. Basil and St. Gregory

Today is the feast day of both St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nyssa, who were brothers. They are as 4th century saints quite late compared to most of those whose feast days fall in the 12 days of Christmas (although Thomas Beckett is even quite a bit later); their role was in resisting the Arian heresy and developing the theology by which the exact nature of the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is understood. 

Solemnity of Mary

The first of the year is the Solemnity of Mary

Go Mighty Bulldogs

Oh, and ah, happy new year.