Christmas is celebrated on December 25. On this date, we remember again the birth of Jesus. Beginning then and following through January 5 are the twelve days of Christmas. By following the story in the Gospels of Luke and of Matthew, we know the magi (wise men) did not reach Jesus until sometime after his birth. Because of this, we separate the celebration of Jesus' birth from the celebration of the coming of the wise men on Epiphany (January 6).
In many countries, Epiphany is the traditional day when children receive gifts. Known as "Three Kings Day," gifts are given to commemorate the gifts brought by the wise men to Jesus.
Here are some ways to celebrate Epiphany in the home:
- Add a white candle to the circle of Advent Candles, and continue to light all candles through January 6. The white candle signifies Jesus.
- Decorate your home using white items. These could include white streamers, stars cut from white poster board, pictures of Jesus' birth and baptism drawn with white markers or chalk.
- Make stars. The star is the symbol of Epiphany because the star led the wise men to Jesus.
- Sing Christmas carols. This is time to have one last sing-along of Christmas songs. Include such songs as: "We Three Kings," "Go Tell It On the Mountain," "Away in the Manger," "Joy to the World," and any others that your family enjoys.
- Have a "three kings" celebration day. In many countries, a King's Cake is served. A French custom is to place into the cake three coins representing the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh brought by the wise men. Whoever gets a piece of cake with a coin in it offers a prayer thanking God for something precious he or shs values.
- Read An Epiphany Blessing of Homes and Chalking the Door by Dean McIntyre. Use the blessing of homes to bless your home on Epiphany.
- Count off the days of Christmas. During the twelve days of Christmas, continue the celebration by giving gifts of kindness or care to one another. On Epiphany, sit together and talk about the ways you have cared for one another in your family. Pray together a prayer thanking God for the times of celebration you have enjoyed and asking God to help each family member continue acts of kindness and love in the coming days and weeks.
- Use this devotion (or one of your own choosing) for family devotions on Epiphany:
Begin by lighting the Christ candle in your Advent Wreath. If you do not have an Advent Wreath, light one white candle representing Jesus.
Speaker: "Today we gather as a family to celebrate Epiphany. On this day, we remember the visit of the wise men to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Let's hear again the story of the coming of the wise men found in the Bible."Give each family member a piece of paper cut into the shape of a star and a pen or marker.
Reader: Read Matthew 2:1-12.
Speaker: "We're going to take a few minutes and think about the ways we have been kind and loving to one another in our family. Write one of those ways on your star."
When all have recalled and written or drawn something on their star to illustrate kind and loving actions, ask each person to tell what he or she has on the star. When each person has finished, place the stars around the white candle.Speaker: Let’s pray together. "Loving God, we give you thanks again for your son Jesus. We know your desire is for us to be kind and loving to one another. We give you thanks for the many ways we are doing this in our family. We ask that you be with us in the coming days and weeks so that we can continue to remember to act with love and kindness. And we ask that you help us so that the words we say and the actions we take not just in our family, but in our schools, in our work, and in our community can reflect this same kindness to all we meet. Amen."
MaryJane Pierce Norton, who served as Associate General Secretary for Leadership Ministries, retired from the staff of Discipleship Ministries on October 30, 2015.