Holiday Almanac: The Twelfth Day of Christmas
Today, Jan. 6, is Epiphany, the traditional “Twelfth Day of Christmas,” recalling when Christians say Jesus’ divinity was revealed.
For Western churches, especially Roman Catholic, Epiphany is Three Kings Day, when they believe the Wise Men visited the young Jesus. In South Florida, Hispanics will celebrate Three Kings Day, with floats and bands in an exuberant parade along Miami’s Calle Ocho.
For Eastern Orthodox churches, Epiphany marks Jesus’ baptism, when the Bible says a dove settled onto him and a voice from heaven declared him “my beloved son.” Some parishes, or groups of parishes, gather for a colorful “‘Blessing of the Waters” ceremony, in which youths retrieve a cross that has been thrown into a waterway.
In West Palm Beach, Greek Orthodox Bishop Alexios will perform the blessing at the Intracoastal Waterway a few steps from St. Catherine’s Church. All Eastern Orthodox churches in South Florida will take part.
In formal Epiphany observances, many parishes use incense as a fragrant reminder of the magi’s gifts to Jesus. Eastern Orthodox priests use the day to bless their baptismal fonts by dipping a cross into the water.
— James D. Davis