What is the Epiphany? Why and when do Christians celebrate it?

(Photo: REUTERS / Shamil Zhumatov)People watch as a woman takes a dip during Epiphany celebration at the Bolshaya Almatinka river bank in Almaty, Kazakhstan, January 19, 2014. Orthodox Christians celebrate the religious holiday of Epiphany according to the Julian calendar on January 19.

Christians around the world will mark a special feast on Jan. 6 with a series of celebrations for the Feast of Epiphany, Three Kings Day and Theophany, 12 days after Christmas is celebrated in many countries.

What is the Epiphany? Why is it also called Three Kings Day? And when do Christians celebrate it, the Independent newspaper asks.

Epiphany - also known as Three Kings' Day - is a Christian feast day which falls on Jan. 6, according to the BBC.

"It is a special date for many Christians as it's when people celebrate how a star led the Magi - also known as the Three kings or the Wise Men - to visit the baby Jesus after he had been born."

'Epiphany' derives from the Greek word meaning 'to reveal', as it is when the baby Jesus was 'revealed' to the world according to the BCC.

A common image of the Epiphany is of three men coming from afar to greet a new born baby, the King of Kings, Jesus in his humble abode.

The festival originated in the Eastern church, where it at first included a commemoration of Christ's birth. In Rome, according to Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

"In Rome, by 354 Christ's birth was being celebrated on December 25 (Christmas), and later in the 4th century the church in Rome began celebrating Epiphany on January 6."

Britannica says that in the Western church the festival primarily commemorates the visit by the Magi to the infant Jesus, which is seen as evidence that Christ, the Jewish Messiah, came also for the salvation of Gentiles.

While the East Jan. 6 it mainly commemorates the baptism of Jesus and celebrates the revelation that the incarnate Christ was both fully God and fully man.

For some in the Orthodox Church, which celebrates Christmas on the Jan. 7, Epiphany falls on Jan. 19.

According to the BBC, in some countries many families will take off Jan.,and exchange presents.

In Spain and Latin America, "El Dia de los Reyes" is just as important as Christmas Day itself.

In some countries many families will take off Jan. 6 and exchange presents.

In the Latin rite of the Catholic Church, Epiphany celebrates the revelation that Jesus was the Son of God, says Catholic News Agency.

It focuses primarily on this revelation to the Three Wise Men, but it also focuses on his baptism in the Jordan and at the wedding at Cana.

"In the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church, Theophany — as Epiphany is known in the East —commemorates the manifestation of Jesus' divinity at his baptism in the River Jordan," says CNA

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