Orthodox Christians celebrate Epiphany in different ways. Amongst these are the Western, Ethiopian and Latin American traditions. For Orthodox Christians, it is a day when they celebrate the incarnation of the Divine.
Epiphany is one of the earliest feasts in the Christian Church. The festival is celebrated on January 6. It is also called the Twelfth Day, and it recognizes the appearance of God through Jesus. Originally, the festival was a celebration of Jesus’ birth, but later it was enlarged to include all of his childhood events.
Today, the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River. In addition, the church has developed a tradition of ‘diving for the cross’. This involves young men diving into chilly waters of Spring Bayou to retrieve the cross.
While the western church primarily celebrates the arrival of the magi, the eastern church emphasizes the baptism of Jesus and the appearance of the Holy Spirit. They also usually focus on water-related activities.
The word Epiphany derives from the Greek term theophaneia, which means ‘divine manifestation’ or’shining forth’. This refers to the fact that the Holy Trinity manifested themselves to mankind at the baptism of Jesus.
There are four manifestations of Christ: the birth, the baptism, the marriage at Cana, and the descent of the Holy Spirit. These events reveal the divinity of the Son of God to the world.
Many Western Christians, especially Anglicans and Roman Catholics, celebrate Epiphany on 6 January. However, in the past, the feast was an eight-day celebration. Earlier, Pope Pius XII abolished all liturgical octaves.
Latin American Epiphany
Epiphany is a high religious holiday celebrated by Orthodox Christians. It is the day of the baptism of Jesus.
The Epiphany season is a time of reflection. During this period, many communities of faith celebrate the visit of the wise men to the infant Jesus. Some churches, such as the Greek Orthodox, call it Theophany.
Other names for Epiphany include El Dia de los Reyes and Three Kings’ Day. In Latin America, these holidays are celebrated as part of a 12-day Christmas celebration.
There are different traditions surrounding each one of these celebrations. For instance, in Mexico, people bake a bread called Rosca de Reyes. This oval-shaped bread is covered with colorful dried fruit. A trinket is placed inside.
In Spain, the Three Kings bring gifts to children. Thousands of children throng the streets of Madrid and other cities on January 6th. One tradition involves leaving shoes outside the night before the Three Kings arrive. Another involves writing a letter to the Three Kings and leaving it by a tree or nativity scene.
In Portugal, the King’s Cake is known as Bolo Rei. Similarly, the Rosca de Reyes is a bread with a trinket in it.
These traditions may be celebrated as a one-day event or as a week-long festival. Depending on the country, there are often festive fiestas to accompany these celebrations.
Ethiopian Orthodox Epiphany
Epiphany is the first mystery of the Christian faith. It is the time of year that celebrates the arrival of the Magi or Kings of the east, and the arrival of Jesus Christ. The event is the first of three major Orthodox celebrations.
The Ethiopian Orthodox church celebrates the event on January 19 in leap years. This festival is a two-day extravaganza of religious ceremonies, prayers, and processions. In a city like Addis Ababa, hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians gather to witness this religious celebration.
The Ethiopian Orthodox church calls this the “Timket” or the “Timkat” for short. It is a ritual reenactment of the baptism of Jesus Christ. At this ceremony, the Patriarch of Ethiopia blesses a pool of water to ward off evil and grant blessings. Thousands of Ethiopians then participate in a procession, carrying replicas of the Ark of the Covenant.
The event begins with pre-sunrise rituals. Priests sprinkle blessed water on the crowd. They also perform a “sistrum-clapping” ceremony and sing traditional religious songs.
Later in the day, the main event takes place. Hundreds of people join the procession, which consists of dozens of churches and their priests. They wear elaborate fabrics and carry religious objects, such as the Holy Tablets, which contain the Ten Commandments of the Bible.
A third day of the festival is spent in the mystical Fasiledas Bath. There, priests perform a religious chanting and prayer session, and a young man dives into the stream.