ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Epiphany Celebrations In January: Boar's Head, Yule Log, Talking Animals, Star Gazing and Others

Updated on January 3, 2013
Source

A Holiday of Discovery and Light

Epiphany or Theophany (God's shining manifestation) is a feast day and a church season among Christian congregations.

The day is January 6, celebrated as Christmas by Russian, Greek, Ukrainian, Serbian, some Appalachian, and many other churches observing the Gregorian Calendar and Orthodox Faith. By an older Julian Calendar, the day is our January 19, but the day irrespective of date is also celebrated by many as that on which the Magi visited Jesus after his birth (Mystery of the Three Kings).

January 6 is also a day on which some churches commemorate the Baptism of Jesus by his cousin John the Baptist. Finally, some churches celebrate three events at once: the Visit of the Magi, the Baptism of Jesus, and the Water Into Wine. Check your local newspapers to see which churches are celebrating what events January 6.

Many of these congregations add to the celebrations with concerts and large celebratory meals. Further, the linens on the altar and pulpit in many churches change to white on January 6 and remain until Ash Wednesday, the season of Epiphany having lasted from January 6 through Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras).

Tying all together, we have a chain of events of constant celebration and remembrance:

  • Christmas on December 25
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas to January 6
  • Twelfth Night or Epiphany or Old Christmas, also called Little Christmas or Orthodox Christmas on January 6
  • The Church Season of Epiphany and the beginning of weekly Mardi Gras parties after January 6
  • Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday - the end of the long Mardi Gras season and the Church Season of Epiphany
  • Ash Wednesday - the beginning of Lent and some form of fasting for 40 days, to be ended by Resurrection Day or Easter.

Mystery Of the Three Kings

Some of the most interesting celebrations on January 6 are that which honor the memory of the Magi (wise men or kings of the East) that followed a star, thought now to be Jupiter in retrograde, in order to find the Christ Child. We often hear of The Three Wise Men, but the number three (3) was often used in literature of the time to designate a group of 12 or more. The number 12 fits in with a number of considerations of the day, including the 12 Tribes of Israel in the Old Testament and the 12 Apostles of Jesus in the New Testament.

What was the mysterious star? Recent research finds that it was a planet, as presented in the DVD below. Some speculation is that the Star of Bethlehem will return during Christmas 2013.

The Star of Bethlehem - Research Documentary

Film Clip About the DVD Shown Above

The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi

Some previous research found that the journey of the Magi to the Christ Child could be traced on an ancient coin.

Some observatories and planetariums present special programs about the Magi during the Christmas and January seasons. Other organizations show films about the research behind finding the Star of Bethlehem today.

Boar's Head and Yule Log

One Ohio church I found celebrates the Epiphany in January with an annual Boar's Head and Yule Log celebration. The Yule Log is traditionally kept throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas and eaten on Epiphany. The Boar's Head is taken from the Roman Empire but also the Norman tradition that the pig's head represented evil. Serving up the cooked Boar's Head represent's Christ's victory over evil and the grave.

The Night The Animals Talk

The first non-Native American settlers that arrived in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains - including Eastern Ohio when my ancestors settled - were laergely Scots-Irish and English. They preserved the belief from their home countries that those who could stay awake until midnight on Old Christmas Eve (January 5th or Twelfth Night) would hear the animals talking about Christmas and praying in the barns and farm fields.

The Scots-Irish Presbyterians held that January 6 should be Christmas, as opposed to the Julian Calendar used by Roman Catholics and its Christmas of December 25. So, in these Scots-Irish communities in America, Old Christmas is still January 6 in parts if Appalachia, or both dates are celebrated, along with the whole Twelve Days of Christmas. It's quite a time! See the preesenation at: Appalachian Christmas.

Cross Diving

Greek Orthodox Bishop performs Great Blessing of Waters on Theophany, releasing the cross off the Glenelg Jetty, South Australia, for one of the swimmers to bring back.
Greek Orthodox Bishop performs Great Blessing of Waters on Theophany, releasing the cross off the Glenelg Jetty, South Australia, for one of the swimmers to bring back. | Source
Mayor, Knights, and a Quack Doctor. Mummers on Boxing Day (December 26) in the UK.
Mayor, Knights, and a Quack Doctor. Mummers on Boxing Day (December 26) in the UK. | Source
1874 Twelfth Night Revelers Carnival invitation, New Orleans.
1874 Twelfth Night Revelers Carnival invitation, New Orleans. | Source

Cross Diving and Other Celebrations

Tarpon Springs Florida's 107th Epiphany celebration on January 6, 2012 includes the Orthodox tradition of cross diving. A high ranking cleric of the Orthodox Church in our nation throws a cross into the ocean and hundreds of boys dive in to look for it. It is a rite of passage for Greek Orthodox boys in America, ages 16 - 18. It honors the Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan by St. John the Baptist, his cousin.

Elsewhere, church congregations and whole towns will enjoy mummers plays (street entertainment), mystery plays about the Magi and the Star, and Christmas Caroling events.

Three Kings Day on January 6 is also called Noche de Reyes, celebrating the discovery of Jesus as an infant by the Magi. One treat on this day of feasting in the church is King's Cake (the same cake used for Mardi Gras), which is a large donut-shaped affair with a plastic baby or a gold coin hidden inside for a lucky person to find.

What are the celebrations in your area for January 6? I wish there were more Twelfth Night parties and such, but am fascinated by the Mystery of the Kings and the Star of Bethlehem. We Three Kings is the first carol I recall learning in elementary school and it stuck with me.

"The Visit to the Quack Doctor", by artist William Hogarth, about 1745. Quack Doctors and magic potions are often a part of Mummer's Plays.
"The Visit to the Quack Doctor", by artist William Hogarth, about 1745. Quack Doctors and magic potions are often a part of Mummer's Plays. | Source

An Epiphany Poll

If you celebrated January 6, what would be your choice of celebrations?

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for commenting! Diving for the cross thrown into freezing waters is certainly intense, as you say.

    • Duane Clay profile image

      Duane Clay 

      5 years ago from Columbus, Georgia

      Cross diving in the ocean... sounds intense and challenging considering how cold the water probably is. Very nice!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I've heard about the animals talking from farmers in the past, but never knew the tradition before I saw it listed in our newspaper!

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 

      5 years ago from North Carolina

      What a unique look into Epiphany celebrations. I had never heard there was a ceremony to hear the animals talk. Fascinating!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Epiphany greetings to you as well! I hiope you enjoy the day very much.

    • Seafarer Mama profile image

      Karen A Szklany 

      5 years ago from New England

      Very comprehensive hub about the Epiphany, Patty. I've enjoyed reading it. Happy New Year and Happy Tres Reyes!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)