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Epiphany
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Epiphany

Epiphany is a Christian feast intended to celebrate the 'shining forth' or revelation of God to mankind in human form, in the person of Jesus Christ. The observance originally included the birth of Jesus Christ; the visit of the three Magi (Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar) who arrived in Bethlehem; and all of Jesus' childhood events, up to his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist. The feast was initially based on, and viewed as a fulfillment of, the Jewish Feast of Lights. This was fixed on January 6, but over time the western churches decided to celebrate Christmas on December 25. The eastern churches continued to treat January 6 as the day marking Jesus's birth. This has given rise in the west to the notion of a twelve day festival, starting on December 25, and ending on January 6, called the twelve days of Christmas, although some Christian cultures - especially those of Latin America - extend it to forty days, ending on Candlemas, or February 2 (known as Candelaria in Spanish).

Prior to 1970, the Roman Catholic Church (and prior to 1976, the Anglican churches) reckoned Epiphany as an eight-day feast, beginning on January 6 and continuing through the Octave of Epiphany, or January 13. More recently, Roman Catholics in the United States mark Epiphany on the Sunday after the first Saturday in January, and all Catholics and Anglicans (along with many other Protestants) now formally end the Christmas season on the Sunday immediately following January 6, or, for American Catholics, the ensuing Monday in years when the Epiphany falls on January 7 or 8. In either case, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord is observed on the latter day, after which the first installment of Ordinary Time begins.

Today in Eastern Orthodox churches, the emphasis at this feast is on the shining forth and revelation of Jesus Christ as the Messiah and second person of the Holy Trinity at the time of his baptism. Usually called the Feast of the Theophany, it is one of the great feasts of the liturgical year; "theophany" is Greek for "God shining forth".

The Irish call this day Little Christmas. In Spain and some Latin American countries Epiphany day is called Día de Reyes (King's Day, as the Magi are known as Reyes Magos) or Pascua de Negros (Blackmen Christmas). In Spanish tradition, on this day, the Magi deliver Christmas presents.


The word "epiphany" also refers to the sudden intuitive realization or comprehension of the essence or meaning of something. The word's secular usage may owe some of its popularity to James Joyce, who expounded on its meaning in the fragment Stephen Hero and the novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). See also Joyce's "epiphanies".

Epiphany is also a web browser for Unix-like systems.