Christmas and New Year’s are behind us, and the only thing Santa seems to have brought us is a turkey allergy. If you haven’t acquired a strong dislike to food yet, there is one more day to celebrate before we return to our normal lives: Epiphany.
Epiphany is a Christian holiday, celebrated on the 6th of January, which commemorates the visit by the Three Kings: Balthasar, Melchior and Gaspar, to the infant Jesus. You may recall the popular Christmas carol “We Three Kings”. Also called the Twelfth Day of Christmas, this feast day was first observed in AD 194, making it older than Christmas (AD 354). Many rites are linked to this celebration. Epiphany is customarily the time when the date of Easter is announced, because calendars were not available to everyone. In central Europe, priests bless houses and churches with Epiphany water. In Eastern Christian churches, a special ceremony is organized, called the Blessing of the Water, in which a priest blesses a body of water by throwing a cross into it. Volunteers are allowed to retrieve the cross to receive a special blessing for the year.
Although not a very popular feast in Canada and the United States, Epiphany is celebrated with a wide array of national customs in other countries. In France and Belgium, it is a time for family, friends and coworkers to eat the “king’s cake”, which contains a special charm, often a small figurine. The youngest person at the table cuts the cake into servings, and the person who finds the charm in his or her serving is named king or queen and wears a paper crown for the rest of the day. These celebrations continue well into February, finishing on Mardi Gras. In Spain and Latin-American countries, cities celebrate Epiphany with parades depicting the arrival of the Three Kings. Following this, children will leave their polished shoes ready for the Three Kings’ presents before going to bed, alongside grass for the camels and milk for the Kings. In Germanic countries, such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands, groups of four children called Sternsinger (star singers) travel from house to house to sing carols. They are usually composed of four girls, three depicting the Kings and one representing a star. They are offered treats, and will bless the house in return. Traditionally, the German Chancellor and the Parliament also receive a visit from the star singers.
At CCH, we celebrate Epiphany with the annual blessing of the classroom doors. With specially blessed chalk, each class inscribes the new year along with the initials “J,M,J” symbolizing the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary and Joseph).
There’s nothing stopping you from celebrating this important event on your own. Start baking Three Kings cake, leave your shoes in hope for a small treat and sing from door to door dressed as one of the Three Kings. Happy Epiphany!
Quentin Golsteyn is a Grade Twelve student at CCH. When he is not working on his latest experiment as an evil scientist, he enjoys biking, playing piano, and programming. HIs favourite thing about CCH is the incredible school spirit.