Today is the Feast of the Epiphany. The word "epiphany" comes from an ancient Greek word meaning "manifestation" or "striking appearance." Before Christianity, the word was used to record occasions when Greek gods and goddesses made appearances on earth.
In the Eastern Church, which includes the Russian and Greek Orthodox Churches, today is a general celebration of God's becoming man. It includes celebrating a whole host of things: the birth of the baby Jesus, the revelation of Jesus' divinity to the rest of the world — like to the Magi visiting from Persia — and most importantly in the East, Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River.
Centuries after the Eastern Orthodox Church began celebrating the Epiphany, the Roman Catholic Church decided to start doing so too. But for some reason, the Western Church really latched on to this image of the Persian priests bringing gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and gold to the infant Jesus, guided from their homeland of Iran by a shining star. The Magi are mentioned only in Matthew's Gospel and he never specified how many magi there were — just that there were three gifts. In 1857, the Reverend John Henry Hopkins Jr. wrote some lyrics for a seminary Christmas pageant, a song that begins: "We three kings of Orient are / Bearing gifts we traverse afar / Field and fountain, moor and mountain / Following yonder star."
I usually like to take the Christmas tree down on this day. That is the big celebration around our house. The problem is that the tree is not completely undecorated and I really don't want to do it by myself. I am thinking that it would be best to wait until Saturday and have my husband and father-in-law do it together!
At one time I heard a story about a college professor who used to like to go on long walks. He like especially to walk with his dog. The dog was called "Epiphany" or "Piphy" for short. This was because this professor would often have enlightening thoughts while tramping around the forest, with his dog.