Epiphany (ĭpĭfˈənē) [key] [Gr., = showing], a prime Christian feast, celebrated Jan. 6, called also Twelfth Day or Little Christmas. Its eve is Twelfth Night. It commemorates three events—the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1), the visit of the Wise Men to Bethlehem (Mat. 2), and the miracle at Cana (John 2). In his baptism Jesus' sonship to God was manifested to the world; in the visit of the Wise Men he was manifested as king to the Gentiles; and at the marriage feast at Cana his power to perform miracles (a divine prerogative) was shown. In popular celebration the feast is far more ancient than Christmas. Technically it is more important than Christmas, ranking after Easter and Pentecost. It is a day of gifts in many countries. In the Eastern Church the waters are blessed on this day. The word epiphany means a manifestation, usually of divine power. Thus the actual appearance of God (as in the burning bush) or a moment of divine revelation may be called an epiphany.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.