Appearance of the Lord

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Larger-than-life monument of the Three Kings (Portuguese "Três Reis Magos") in Natal (Brazil) , 2004
Coat of arms of the Guild of the Three Kings , Zurich

Epiphany , Epiphany , Epiphany (from ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια epipháneïa , Latinized epiphanīa "appearance") or the festival of Epiphany is the original name and still in use today in the Protestant Church of a festival in Christianity on January 6th ; in the current edition of the Pericope Order it is referred to as the “Feast of the Apparition of the Lord: Epiphany”. In parts, especially in the Orthodox churches , the term theophany ( θεοφάνεια theophanīa "appearance of God") is used synonymously.

In the Catholic Church there is a solemnity of the Epiphany (Sollemnitas in Epiphania Domini), popular and in many calendars as Epiphany , Epiphany , Epiphany and Epiphany referred, isolated regionally today u. A. also as big new year, high new year, high new year or supreme . In Austria this day is also called Christmas Twelve. This name is probably derived from the old custom of celebrating Christmas for twelve days, the last day of which was the feast of the Epiphany.

The western churches assign the festival to the adoration of the child by the wise men from the east . In the Orthodox churches it is the solemn feast of the baptism of the Lord and the revelation of the Most Holy Trinity .

Calendar day

Epiphany and the birth of Christ were originally celebrated in a festival on January 6th. In the Armenian Apostolic Church this is still the case today, whereas the feast of the birth of Christ in the Roman state church in AD 432 was moved to December 25th. Due to the calendar reform of 1582, the festivals of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches were shifted against each other. December 25th of the Julian calendar fell on January 6th for a long time and falls on January 7th of the Gregorian calendar in the 20th and 21st centuries, yet Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas on December 25th. Since the Julian calendar also applies to the Armenian Christians in the Holy Land, Christmas is celebrated there together with the feast of Christ's baptism as Epiphany on January 6th, according to the Gregorian calendar.

Story and content

Already in Hellenistic Egypt the birth of the sun god Aion from the virgin Kore was celebrated on the night of January 5th to 6th . On the day of January 6th, the healing water was drawn from the Nile.

In ancient Greece the words theopháneia and epipháneia denoted the appearance of a deity, with the former also the presentation of all images of gods at a festival in Delphi .

In the ancient Roman imperial cult in the Hellenistic east of the Roman Empire , a holiday was formed that included the divine appearance of Divus as part of the ceremonial . The rite was also celebrated at the beginning of January and was based on the epiphany Julius Caesar , who crossed the Rubicon on January 10, 49 BC. Was welcomed and worshiped by the people as a savior and living god (probably Divus Iulius ). Basically, the epiphany meant nothing other than the adventus , the arrival of the Roman emperor and "his auspicious moving into a city."

In the 2nd century at the latest, the Christian Epiphany or Theophaniefest arose in the Eastern Church , which up until the 4th century had overlaid the old ritual of the imperial cult. After the Constantinian turning point , some elements of the pre-Christian epiphany cult, insofar as they could be transferred to Christ, entered the liturgy . The imperial epiphany rites lasted in Byzantium until the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire, albeit more and more restricted, as the position of the divinized Caesars as the Roman state gods was pushed back compared to the role of the living ruler as Christ 's representative. The original date of the Epiphany is unknown. The oldest reliable source mentions next to May 20th, especially January 10th, but also the 6th day of the new year, which is commonly used today. On this day, reports Clemens of Alexandria , the Gnostic sect of the Basilidians celebrated the baptism of Jesus, through which, according to their understanding, the man Jesus became the Son of God .

By "appearance" is meant the human presence of God in the person of Jesus Christ . The birth of Jesus is illustrated by the veneration of the Jewish shepherds, the adoration of the wise ( MtEU ), his filial ministry up to his baptism in the Jordan ( Mt 3 : 13-17  EU ) and his first miracle at the wedding in Cana ( Jn 2 : 1–11  EU ). The Western Church (Western Church), which celebrated the birth of Jesus on December 25th ( Christmas ), later took over the Epiphany, but instead of the birth celebrated the "three miracles" of the adoration of the kings (also known as the "adoration of the wise"), the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan and the wedding in Cana. The festival can be referred to as a "royal festival" as it emphasizes the appearance of the royal power of Jesus Christ and his adoration as king. This thought was promoted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 . raised to the theme of its own festival, the festival of Christ the King .

The valid reading and pericope regulations in the Protestant, Catholic and Anglican churches relate with the Gospel ( Mt 2, 1–12  EU ) above all to the adoration of the wise, so that this festival content is naturally in the foreground today. The Old Testament reading Isa 60.1–6  EU , which is required in the Catholic reading order, as well as the epistle Eph 3.2-3a.5-6  EU are also provided in the evangelical pericope order in the fifth and second row. There are additional readings Joh 1,15–18  EU (III), Col 1,24–27  EU (IV) and 2 Cor 4,3–6  EU (VI).

The baptism in the Jordan is the following Sunday - in the Roman Catholic Church as the feast of the baptism of the Lord , in the Protestant church year as the 1st Sunday after Epiphany - the revelation at the wedding in Cana the again following “2nd Sunday after Epiphany "(Protestant) or the" 2. Sunday in the annual cycle ”in reading year C (Catholic). In previous evangelical pericopes, the gospel of the baptism of Jesus ( Mt 3 : 13-17  EU ) was still read on Epiphany.

It is assumed that the epiphany in the western church was only recognized liturgically after the introduction of Christmas there on the feast day of Sol Invictus , i.e. in the 4th century at the earliest.

Traditional ice bathing for Epiphany on January 19th in Kazan (Russia)

The Eastern Church has been celebrating the advent of Christmas on December 25 in the church year with Epiphany only the " baptism of Jesus ," with the Slavs connected with a blessing of the water ( "Holy water in Eastern Christianity"), and often a procession to a body of water. Since part of the Orthodoxy , especially in Russia and Serbia , liturgically adheres to the Julian calendar , Christmas in the affected countries is currently celebrated on January 7th and Epiphany on January 19th.

The feast of the Epiphany is celebrated in the liturgy of the Catholic Church as the solemn feast of the Epiphany. The calendar of the Evangelical Church also contains the feast of Epiphany. Until 1955, the Epiphany also had a vigil day on January 5 and an octave that ended on January 13; of this remained after its abolition by Pope Pius XII. the former octave day left on which the feast of the baptism of the Lord was celebrated until the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council . The Vigil of the Feast of the Apparition has its own liturgical proprium .

National holiday

January 6th is a public holiday in Austria , Liechtenstein , Italy , San Marino , Spain and Andorra , Sweden , Iceland , Finland , Croatia , Slovakia , Greece and Poland .

In Germany , January 6th is a public holiday in Baden-Württemberg , Bavaria and Saxony-Anhalt , in Switzerland in the cantons of Schwyz , Ticino and Uri and in some municipalities in the canton of Graubünden .

In Georgia , January 19, corresponding to January 6 of the Julian calendar, is Epiphany Day.


Johann Sebastian Bach composed two cantatas in Leipzig for the festival that ended the Christmas season: They will all come from Saba ( BWV 65, 1724) and Dearest Immanuel, Duke of the Pious (BWV 123, 1725). The sixth part of his Christmas Oratorio, Lord, when the proud enemies snort , is intended to be performed in the service on the Feast of Epiphany.

regional customs

High new year

In the folk tradition of southern Germany and the Alps, January 6th is also regarded as New Year's Day - High New Year , Great New Year , Great New Year, Oberster or Öberster.

The origin of this New Year's concept has so far been generally traced back to Christian roots or at least set in a Christian period. This approach to introducing January 6th as New Year's Day has now been questioned as it is not supported by any Christian tradition - for example, there is no document in which January 6th is ever mentioned as an official New Year's Day in the territory of the Holy Roman Empire , unlike other Christian New Year dating.

Even with the calendar changes and adjustments of the 16. – 18. Century, this idea is in no way related, since the earliest surviving mentions date back to the 14th century. An interpretation of the New Year's understanding of January 6th as part of an originally pre-Christian annual cycle is therefore no longer excluded.

With a pre-Christian idea of ​​January 6th as New Year's Day, further elements of popular belief are connected, e.g. B. the Rauhnächte (also Raunacht or Rauchnacht) .

In Upper Franconia , Midsummer Day is associated with the custom of “drinking strength” on the evening before or on the evening of January 6th.

Diving for cruises

Bulgaria's Orthodox Christians, who celebrate Christmas on December 25th, celebrate Epiphany on January 6th, priests throw crosses into cold waters , men jump after each other to take out one thing that should bring good luck.

Weather rules

Popular weather rules apply to Epiphany :

  1. "Epiphany Eve bright and clear, promises a good wine year."
  2. "If there is no winter until Dreikönig, there will be no one behind it."


Carol singers blessing on a door of the city ​​of Regen in the Bavarian Forest for the year 2008

In the folk tradition of the western church , the festival of Epiphany was reduced to the motif of the three holy kings , the wise men from the Orient. In the cribs , the figures on Epiphany are supplemented by three wise men from the Orient.

Based on ancient customs, parishioners go from house to house dressed as the “three kings”. Mostly it is children and young people who perform this task as "carol singers"; In Catholic areas it is acolytes , communion children or other young people from the respective parish who not only preach the good news of the Gospel , but also collect donations for disadvantaged children. This tradition is supported in the German-speaking area by the children's mission organization “Die Sternsinger”. The carolers sing a song and / or say a poem or a prayer to the people who let in the carol singers. Then write the traditional blessing C + M + B on the front doors or the door bars with consecrated chalk with the respective year, separated by the star and three crosses, which can be interpreted as faith, love and hope. More common is the interpretation as an abbreviation of the legendary names of the three kings Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, for those who know Latin it is the first letters of the blessing " Christ Mansionem Benedicat " (Christ bless this house).

The wise men from the Orient are traditionally considered to be the first missionaries to carry the Good News all over the world. For this reason, the festival of Epiphany is considered the oldest mission festival.

church service

In the Roman Catholic Church, traditionally chalk (for the house blessing by the carol singers , Christ mansionem benedicat "Christ bless this house"), incense (in memory of the gifts by the wise men from the east) and the water of the Three Kings ( in memory of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan). The benediction provides separate forms for this. In episcopal churches, after the proclamation of the Gospel or the closing prayer, the so-called fixed announcement of the moving feasts of the year takes place.

Regional customs

Epiphany fireworks in Jaén in Andalusia , 2010

In Austria, the work of the Holy Apostle Peter collects for world missions , and the carol singing is carried out by the respective diocese as a Dreikönigsaktion , an aid organization of the Catholic youth group. The girls and boys of the young crowd, beautifully clad as the Three Wise Men and a star bearer, go from house to house, sing, read texts and point out the good cause of their collection, mostly the funding of projects in developing countries. The year and the letters C + M + B are also written over the doors.

In some countries, Epiphany cakes (yeast pastries in the shape of a crown) are baked: In Italy , gifts are only given on January 6th, at La Befana . In Spain it is traditionally the three kings who first bring gifts to children, just like they brought gifts to the baby Jesus . During the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos parade , they move through the city with their entourage: when the children come back home from the parade, the kings have already been there and have left the presents. Often the children put food for the kings' camels on the window sill beforehand. If the children weren't good, they received a lump of coal instead of the presents - today mostly a lump of sugar colored black.

In the Swabian-Alemannic Fasnet , carnival traditionally begins on Epiphany with various customs.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Epiphany  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Epiphany  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. This form used in the Protestant churches is the genitive of the Greek word, which the Latin liturgical books of the West had adopted in the Fügung festum Epiphanias (Domini) , see article in Meyers Konversations-Lexikon .
  2. For possible delimitations see Thomas HiekeEpiphanie (AT). In: Michaela Bauks, Klaus Koenen, Stefan Alkier (eds.): The scientific Bibellexikon on the Internet (WiBiLex), Stuttgart 2006 ff., Accessed on December 27, 2018.
  3. As "Epiphany / Epiphany" is the church holiday on January 6 in § 7  paragraph 1 letter a of the Lower Saxony Law on Holidays (NFeiertagsG) in the version of 7 March 1995 (Nds. GVBl. 1995, p 50) , last amended by the law of June 5, 2013 (Nds. GVBl. 2013 p. 131).
  4. God shows himself to people: then, now and at the end of time. Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, 2010, archived from the original on January 6, 2014 ; accessed on January 6, 2014 . Vazken Movsesian: December 25 or January 6: When shall we celebrate Christmas? (pdf; 118 kB) Armenian Church Youth Ministries, 2003, p. 2 , accessed on January 6, 2014 .
  5. Epiphanius of Salamis adversus haereses 51
  6. The appearance of the statue of the goddess Athena and her greeting at the Plynteria festival in Athens is described by the poet Callimachus at the end of his hymn To Pallas's Bath . (Callimachos, Εἰς λουτρὰ τῆς Πάλλαδος 137 ff .: " Enter Athena now, unerringly. Receive the goddess, you girls! ... Greetings, goddess! ...")
  7. In ancient Roman imperial metaphysics , the word "gospel" was also used for the apparition of the Lord; B. reproduced in a resolution of the Greek citizens of the imperial province of Asia: “Providence [...], with care and generosity, crowned our existence with the highest adornment, since Augustus [...] sent us as Savior [...]. The epiphany of the emperor [Augustus] abundantly fulfilled the hopes (and prayers) of the past. […] For the cosmos, however, the series of Gospel feasts began with the birthday of God (Augustus), which are celebrated in his honor. ”In Ethelbert Stauffer : Jerusalem and Rome in the Age of Jesus Christ. Bern 1957; cf. also Vespasian's Epiphany and Gospel Festival in Josephus' Bellum Judaicum 4, 10, 6, 618.
  8. Not exclusively, however, because every divinized emperor had his own gospel festivals and epiphany proclamations at which his apparition was celebrated.
  9. Manfred Clauss: Kaiser and God. Stuttgart / Leipzig 1999; cf. also Caesar's epiphany in Corfinium (Caesar: De Bello Civili. I.21).
  10. ^ "Introduction" in Schott: Römisches Missbuch.
    Adventus Caesaris in Aulus Hirtius: De Bello Gallico. (VIII.51).
  11. Greek epiphaneia tou kyriou "Appearance of the Lord" ( epiphanias is genitive to epiphaneia ); furthermore: theophania "appearance of God"; Other names used in antiquity are: (1) ta epiphania or he epiphanios, sc. hemera (rarely he epiphaneia; but e.g. in Athanasius: he somatike epiphaneia ); theophaneia ( Latin dies epiphaniarum, festivitas declarationis, manifestationis, apparitio, acceptio ); (2) hemera ton photon (lat. Dies luminum, dies lavacri ); (3) phagiphania, Bethphania etc .; (4) Festum trium regum and others, e.g. B. denho in Syro-Aramaic Christianity.
  12. Even today, in some Christian folk traditions, remnants of the imperial cult can still be recognized in the epiphany ritual , such as the boat procession during the Cypriot Phota (festival of light), which probably represents the crossing of the Rubicon. In general, water - also symbolized in baptism - has remained an important element of the festival of Epiphany. In Western Europe, too, parts of the ancient Roman festival, which was not unlike the Saturnalia in its execution , were held in today's Befana festival (of Epiphany ) in Rome. The military character of the apparition of the Lord from pre-Christian times was also maintained in the Sicilian Epiphany (occupation of the church by priests accompanied by armed men).
  13. Clemens : Electricity. I, XXI, 145. In: PG, VIII, 888; See Catholic Encyclopedia. (1997-2007)
  14. Heinrich von Meurers: The Kingship of Christ. In: Pastor Bonus Vol. 37 (1926), pp. 10-38, here pp. 24f.
  15. ^ Evangelical hymn book for Rhineland and Westphalia, 1930, DNB 573430047 , appendix p. 55.
  16. Hugo Kehrer: The Three Kings in Literature and Art, Vol. 1; Leipzig, published by E. A. Seemann, 1908; P. 49. In Germany, January 6th is also called the “top tac”, the “top day”. In a document of the Fürstenfeld monastery from 1325 it can be read: “Am Obersten”, in Cod. Germ. 504 of the Hof-Staatsbibliothek Munich from the fifteenth century “on the obrosten day”. Hermann von Fritzlar gives the motivation in the book of the Holy Life 1349: "In other lands iz the top day heats around the big thing the hats are done on the driu kunigen, you looked for daz kint and found iz so hats".
  17. Grotefend in Mansucripta-Mediavalia: “There are a total of six different beginnings of the year: January 1st; 1st March; 25th March; Easter; September 1; December 25th. The special explanation of the use of the beginning of the year with January 1st see under circumcision style, March 1st see under pre-Caesarian beginning of the year, March 25th see under annunciation style, Easter see under Easter beginning, September 1st see under Byzantine beginning of the year, December 25th. see under Christmas start. "
  18. Epiphany Bulgaria: Orthodox Bulgarians celebrated the baptism of Jesus despite the pandemic , January 6, 2021, accessed January 7, 2021.
  19. Pilgrims and pilgrims, La Befana (January 16, 2016)