Epiphany: origin, meaning& customs

Those who study the history of the Magi will quickly realize that it is mainly a matter of religious myths, traditional tales and legends. The Catholic Church reveres the "three kings" as saints and celebrates them with the Feast of the Epiphany on 6. January. Who were these magi from the East and what are the customs around Epiphany?. the Epiphany?

Epiphany: origin, meaning& customs

Table of Contents

Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar: Who were the Three Kings??

The actual existence of the three wise men from the Orient could never be proven. Therefore, the attempt of an explanation is also subject to many interpretations, assumptions and interpretations. It is certain that the Three Kings in a manger are popular nativity figures.

Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar have gone down in history as the Three Wise Men. They are an indispensable part of every Christmas crib and are among the most significant figures in the world.

The three men came from the so-called Orient, the today’s Near East. Their costume, described as oriental, points to an origin in Persia. There the scientists described as particularly wise were presumably as Stargazer and thus as Astrologers active. In this function they observed at Christmas time the rising of a new celestial star.

This star presented itself in the sky with a brightly shining tail and, if modern scientific investigations are to be believed, was probably not a comet, but a close meeting of the two planets Jupiter and Saturn. Other interpretations describe the Magi as magicians and sorcerers who had a sense of the supernatural, or also as alchemists and thus healers.

Around the further life of the three men, who are usually represented in their appearance as quite wealthy, many legends entwine. One of them says that each of them, through Apostle Thomas, came to the Bishop appointed had been. They are also said to be successful Missionaries and died shortly after each other.

According to another legend, the Magi were buried in a common tomb, said to have been found in 326 by Saint Helena. In July 1164 the Bones in the Cologne Cathedral, where they have been resting ever since and are venerated as relics in the shrine of the Three Kings.

Magi: The meaning of the names

The name Caspar comes from the Persian and means as much as "guardian of the treasure" or also "treasurer. Caspar is often depicted as an African with dark skin and presents myrrh as a gift. Myrrh stands as a symbol for being human and in some interpretations is also associated with the later suffering of Jesus.

Melchior is a Hebrew name and stands for "King of the light". Melchior has European features and presents gold as a gift. Gold is considered the most precious commodity worthy of a king, the Son of God.

Also the name Balthasar comes from the Hebrew and means so much like "God bless his life" or "God will help. Translations of the name from ancient Syriac are also "God save the king". Balthasar is associated with an Asian origin. He delivers incense, which is considered a divine symbol.

History or. Origin of the Epiphany

History of the Epiphany

Wise men from the East came to the manger to pay homage to the newborn King.

The story of the Three Kings probably has its origin in the Gospel of Matthew. Because there it can be read that wise men, magicians and astrologers came from the East to pay their respects to the newborn king by visiting him. Like the shepherds, they had followed the shining star newly risen in the sky, which brought them to the Holy Family’s crib. The star had led them to a special birth, the birth of Jesus.

Epiphany: origin, meaning& customs

Epiphany: origin, meaning& customs

Epiphany: origin, meaning& customs

As members of the upper class, they enjoyed high esteem and were in a position to bring the child with them Gold, frankincense and myrrh to give gifts. By the way, Matthew did not name the number of men. The number three was only later derived from the number of gifts. He also did not refer to them as kings and did not call them by name. This custom exists only since the 8th century. Century. Much more important than the actual story of the Three Kings seems to be their symbolic meaning.

The symbolism: Why 3 Kings?

Thus, the number three was considered sacred in many cultures and marked divine constellations in religion and myth. As an example Christian trinity, mentioned the Roman triad of Juno, Jupiter and Minerva, the Egyptian trinity of Horus, Isis and Osiris, and the division of the world into heaven, earth and the underworld. The Indian religious philosophy knows being, thinking and delighting. Also in The three plays an important role in fairy tales and idioms. One thinks here of "having three wishes free", "three brothers, "in three devils’ names" or "all good things come in threes.

But back to the Three Kings, who are associated with the three phases of life: youth, adulthood and old age, as well as with the three biblical "races" the Chamites, Semites and Japhetites are associated as descendants of Noah’s sons. In addition, the three wise men were already assigned to the continents of Africa, Asia and Europe around the year 700, which is reflected, for example, in the pictorial representations of the icons.

Why exactly three holy kings? The number three has symbolic meaning.

If we look at the meeting of shepherds, wise men, ox and donkey, it is noticeable that the interpretations that have arisen over many centuries are similar in one thing: they all state that the Shepherd and the ox stand for the Jews and the Wise men and the donkey symbolize the pagans. All together, however, they stand together in the stable, devout and filled with peace, to pay homage to the incarnate Messiah. In view of many of today’s religious wars and crisis areas shaken by fighting, we can therefore assume that this one moment in the stable in Bethlehem was the most peaceful moment on earth. And in this respect represents a great symbol of hope for mankind, whatever faith it may be.

At that time themselves as travelers on their way to Bethlehem, the Magi are considered until today as the Patron saints of all travelers, innkeepers and pilgrims. But officially they were never "saints spoken. In addition, the first letters of their names written on house doors and stable walls are supposed to help protect the corresponding buildings and their inhabitants from harm.

Also the gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense brought to the baby Jesus have a certain symbolism, as already indicated above. For example, gold is interpreted as a worthy gift for a king. Myrrh is considered a medicinal plant and therefore a suitable gift for a healer. And incense is the appropriate gift for a priest.

Epiphany: Customs, traditions and peculiarities

The Three Kings Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar have a long tradition in the Church and are still celebrated today. In the following you will learn everything about customs and peculiarities around this holiday.

The Three Kings Games

The custom of the Three Kings’ Games follows old traditions from the year 378. Originally, the Holy Mary communicated with the three kings in the form of a sung dialogue. Whether this actually happened is highly controversial. What is not disputed, however, is the origin of a back-and-forth chant that became especially popular during the 15. The ox was very popular at the beginning of the twentieth century. Some people even say that the Three Kings’ Singing Games laid the foundation for the later tradition of the carol singers.

The carol singers

The first carol singers went out in the 16. Century from door to door. Accompanied by their teacher, schoolchildren knocked on the doors of houses to tell the people living in them the Singing the story of Jesus Christ. Afterwards they blessed the house with a cross painted on the door. In gratitude, the children received small rewards in the form of nuts and apples.

Even today, about 500.000 girls and boys from door to door as part of the annual carol singing campaign. They dress up as Magi and collect money under the motto "Children help children" Donations for children in need worldwide. The money collected goes to a different organization every year. Even the Custom of the house blessing has remained.

For this purpose, the carol singers write the respective year on the door in the middle of which they letters C, M and B insert. On the one hand, these three letters stand for the Latin word "Galette" "Christ mansionem benedicat", which translates as "Christ bless this house" means. On the other hand, it is obvious to associate these letters with the first letters of the three royal names Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. However, the special combination of letters and numbers is said to have a certain protective effect and to keep evil away from the respective houses.

The Epiphany card

By the way, in the Middle Ages the three letters C, M and B were also written on parchment, tanned animal skins or papyrus. In this way, travelers and pilgrims could always carry the protective blessing with them.

The Epiphany Islands

On the 6. January 1643, Dutch navigator Abel Tasman discovered a group of islands northwest of New Zealand in the Tasman Sea, which he named the Three Kings Islands in honor of the holiday.

The Epiphany cake

Epiphany cake as a festive cake on the feast day Epiphany

Epiphany cake is a popular festive pastry for the Three Kings holiday.

The Epiphany cake, known in England as "King’s Cake", in France as "Galette des Rois" and in Spain as "Roscon de Reyes" is known, is a Traditional holiday pastries, that only for the 6. January is baked. While the recipes are quite different, all cakes have one thing in common. In the cake is namely a Lucky charm is baked in the form of an almond, coin, bean or porcelain figurine, which makes the person who finds it the king of the family for a day. An ancient custom, which is also very common in the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Information about the holiday Epiphany

The 6. January is considered the day when the Magi, guided by a star, arrived at the stable in Bethlehem. It is the day of the manifestation of the divinity of Jesus, the "Appearance of the Lord". A religious feast, that as "Epiphany in the Protestant as well as in the Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox churches is celebrated. By the way, the designation is as "Day of the Three Kings" respectively "Epiphany only since the 4. Century customary. Thus the oldest found traditions of this feast day date back to the year 336.

In reference to the royal gifts that were presented to the baby Jesus on this day, in some European countries only on this day the "Family feast with "Bescherung instead of. This custom is common for example in Spain and Russia. In Germany, on the other hand, Epiphany also represents the end of the Christmas season. Many families decorate after the 6. January their Christmas tree.

Among the European countries where the 6. The Three Kings holiday, which is observed as a national holiday on 1 January, is celebrated in Andorra, Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden. In Germany, however, Epiphany is celebrated only in the states of Bavaria, Baden-Wurttemberg and Saxony-Anhalt. In Switzerland, the situation is similar, because here the 6. January accepted as a holiday only in parts of Graubunden and in the cantons of Schwyz, Ticino and Uri.

FAQ: The most important facts about the Three Kings in brief

The Catholic feast of the Three Kings commemorates the veneration of the infant Jesus by the Three Kings Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. According to tradition, they arrived at that stable immediately after the birth of Jesus Christ to worship the new King of the world.

The feast of the Three Kings is also called Epiphany, Epiphany or Epiphany Day.

The Catholic Church venerates the "three kings" as saints. The feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on the 6th of December. January.

The abbreviation C M B stands on the one hand for "Christus mansionem benedicat", which means "Christ bless this house". On the other hand, the initials are also associated with the first letters of the Three Kings Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.

The names of the three kings are Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.

The Feast of the Three Kings is a public holiday in Germany in Bavaria, Baden-Wurttemberg and Saxony-Anhalt.

The Feast of Epiphany is a national holiday in various European countries. These countries are Andorra, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Austria, Poland, Sweden, Spain, Slovakia and Cyprus.

On Epiphany day, various traditions are observed. During the carol singing campaign, children dressed as the Three Kings go from house to house to remind people of the festive event. In some countries, an Epiphany cake is also baked in which a lucky charm is hidden.

The bones of the Magi are said to be kept in a golden shrine in Cologne Cathedral. Many believers come to the church to remember Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.

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