January 05, 2008
But in researching the holiday for this post, I learned something. Originally (and by that I'm talking middle 4th century), January 6th was the Feast of the Nativity. St. Epiphanius says that the January 6 is hemera genethlion toutestin epiphanion -- Christ's "Birthday; that is, His Epiphany." So January 6th is the first celebration of Christmas -- the December 25th date came as a result of the change to the Gregorian calendar, it seems.
Interestingly, we also read of some early indications that the early Eastern church celebrated Christ's baptism and nativity on the same day(St. Clement of Alexandria in Stromateis, I, xxi, 45, for one example). The practice continues, as many Orthodox churches celebrate Epiphany as the Theophany -- the revelation of Christ as God's Son, which happened at His baptism.
The West celebrates the arrival of the Magi on January 6th. By 534, the Nativity and the Epiphany were separate celebrations in the West, but the traditional worship on the 6th was too strong, it seems. Interestingly, both holy days commemorate the same thing -- the mystery of the Incarnation -- but do it in different ways.
Of course, if you're in Louisiana, Epiphany is the beginning of the Mardi Gras season. So start baking those King Cakes (and send me one, too!).
Posted by: Warren Kelly at
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