Today is Epiphany, a Christian holiday which celebrates God becoming human. (Certain eastern Christians call it Theophany.) I know; you thought we just did this at Christmas, right? Well, Christmas serves this purpose in those churches who ignore Epiphany. For the rest of Christendom, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, but Epiphany celebrates how humanity discovered just how significant that birth is.
Usually the discovery is represented by the stories of the magi coming to visit the baby Jesus; or of John the Baptist first hearing God point out who Jesus is; or of Jesus turning water into wine at Cana, which got his students to believe in him.
As I said at Christmas, Epiphany was the original celebration of Jesus’s birth. Christmas evolved from it. Those churches who celebrate it, consider it the third most important holiday of the Christian calendar.
So how is it so many American Protestants don’t celebrate it—or any of the other Christian holidays than Easter and Christmas? Blame the Puritans, the 14th-century Calvinist wing of the Church of England. They wanted to get rid of everything in the church they considered unbiblical—or too Roman Catholic for their taste. If it wasn’t in the bible (and in fact no Christian holiday is), they got rid of it. No more Epiphany. No Christmas either. It wasn’t till the 1830s when Americans began celebrating Christmas and Easter again—several generations away from Catholic influence, and a great deal more influenced by American merchants who market the heck out of these holidays. Even today they’re not celebrated as the first Christians held them. They’re arranged as one-day celebrations—the better a goal for merchants to reach. But I won’t rant about that today.
Other countries celebrate Epiphany in all sorts of interesting ways, and of course with food and cake. But the important thing is to remember—again—how significant it is that God became human.
And with Epiphany ends the Christmas season. Happy Christmas again to you all. (You can take the decorations down now.)