Epiphany celebration: Why we celebrate Epiphany

Russian Orthodox believers take icy plunge to mark Epiphany

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Millions of Christians in the UK and worldwide celebrate Epiphany every January. The date is commonly known for when you should take your Christmas decorations down, but for many, it marks an important element of Christian worship.

Why do we celebrate Epiphany?

Epiphany is the first major Christian event of the year, falling on January 6 each year.

It marks two important parts of the Christian story, the first being Jesus Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River, which is considered the manifestation of his divinity as God came to earth.

Secondly, it commemorates the visit of the Magi – that is the famous three Kings – to the infant Jesus.

READ MORE: Queen ignores tradition of taking decorations down on Twelfth Night

According to the Gospel of Matthew, the three wise men — Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar — followed the star of Bethlehem across the desert to meet the baby Jesus.

They famously gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh; the gold representing his royal standing; frankincense his divine birth; and myrrh his mortality.

Epiphany is among festivals of the Christian church, the other two being Easter and Christmas.

These three make up the most important elements of the Christian calendar – although Epiphany is often overshadowed by the end of Christmas and its huge cultural significance, particularly in the UK and the West.

What does Epiphany mean for Brits?

Even non-religious people celebrate Christmas, and the traditions surrounding Christian events are often observed in the UK regardless of belief or not.

How Epiphany is celebrated varies depending on cultural beliefs and traditions, but in many countries, it is a time to eat well and put away your Christmas decorations.

In Britain, tradition has it that Christmas decorations stay up until Twelfth Night, which is the day before Epiphany on January 5.

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Twelfth Night is a festival in some branches of Christianity which marks the beginning of Epiphany.

A count of exactly 12 days from Christmas Day arrives on January 5.

Tradition tells it that having your Christmas decorations and eating Christmas foods after Twelfth Night will bring you bad luck.

In ancient times, Christians believed that tree-spirits lived in the holly and ivy.

After the festive season, they would be released outside. But if they were let go before Christmas officially ended on Epiphany eve, the forthcoming harvest could be thwarted.

The more superstitious among us believe that if you fail to rid your home of Christmas decorations on January 5, you should wait to take them down on February 2, otherwise known as Candlemas Day.

The most ardent believers in tradition believe that if, somehow, you don’t take your decorations down on Candlemas, you should leave them up throughout the year until next Christmas.

Festivities for the day vary throughout the world, from swimming to exchanging presents, or public displays of fireworks and parades.

In many countries, particularly Catholic ones, the day is a public holiday.

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