Celebrating the Epiphany on January 6th

On “The Anglo-Catholic” blog comes this short discussion on Celebrating the Epiphany on January 6th. The question there is whether the new Anglican Ordinariates will be allowed to continue to celebrate Epiphany on January 6th or will they be required (in those countries where the Bishops Conference has so determined, such as Australia) to move the feast to the nearest Sunday.

Apart from that question, which really doesn’t concern me, the question of how to celebrate the Epiphany in our homes is, I think, an important one apart from the question of when the feast is officially celebrated in the region to which we belong. This came up yesterday and the day before in our home devotions when we marked the last day of Christmas (Twelfth Night) and the Epiphany on their traditional days.

I have always tried to instill in the girls an understanding that Christmas is a full 12 day festival, only ending with the coming of the wise men at the Epiphany. Only now do we bring down the Christmas tree and other decorations. This rhythm is very important, I think. I can understand why the Church has shifted the feast to the Sunday – as a day of obligation, you would really have Buckley’s of getting anyone to turn up on a weeknight in the middle of the January summer holidays in Australia. Even the Lutheran Church generally takes the option of shifting the feast to Sunday so that the full story gets told to the whole people of God. But I don’t think this should stop us from celebrating January 6th as it is supposed to be celebrated, any more than we should stop the English celebrating St George’s day just because it isn’t on the Calendar any more.

A minor note is that in these days the Orthodox have their annual blessing of the waters – which fits right in with the Summer Holidays down under. The competition is for strapping young Greeks to dive into the ocean to retrieve the cross that the priest throws off the jetty at the blessing. A popular event that always gets a picture in the paper.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Celebrating the Epiphany on January 6th

  1. Clara

    We have an extended season of Christmas. We observe the Epiphany, but the decorations stay up until the feast of the Presentation. It seems a little inhospitable to pack the wide men away the day after their arrival – especially after such a long journey. Besides, this is also the practice in St Peter’s Square.

  2. Yes, Clara, we will probably leave up our decorations until Candlemas, at least in part because we don’t put them up until right before Christmas (normally Christmas Eve) and then I like them to stay up for quite some time!

    • Good points both! I will take this to the “council” at the dinner table tonight. We also don’t put up the tree until the last few days of Advent, and if we are away over Christmas it is a bit of “miss-out”.

  3. Kiran

    Well, the old tradition is that shifting of feast merely shifts the external solemnity and doesn’t affect the actual day itself…

    • Which means? Practically speaking?

      • Kiran

        Which means that the Mass for the feast is celebrated with all the trappings on a different day, but the office for the Sunday is still the office for the Sunday, and the day itself is completely unaltered…

  4. Tony Bartel

    In the Orthodox Church, the emphasis on water comes from the fact that unlike the West, the emphasis for Epiphany is one the Baptism of Christ.

    Apart from diving into the sea or a lake (which can’t be very pleasant in Russia a this time of year), Epiphany is the time for blessing houses with the blessed water from the Liturgy.

    So spare a thought for the poor priests trying to bless a good majority of the homes in their parish over these past couple of days, and being inundated with cups of tea and baked goods in the process.

  5. matthias

    I work for a Catholic welfare agency and I noticed that two of our nursing homes still had their Christmas trees up yesterday.It might be the practice of the respective manager to leave up for the 12 days