And down from all the stars
Streams blessings like wondrous rain
So that all our weary powers
Grow newly fresh again.
And out of obscure dark
The Lord comes into view
To knit torn threads together
And all of life renew
-Friedrich Hebbel, found in the book “Celebrating Festivals With Children” by Freya Jaffke
Epiphany is coming on Friday! For those of you new to celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas, which culminates in Epiphany and the end of Christmastide and the beginning of the season of Epiphany, this day can be a sweet and simple celebration of light. There is a quote from St. Theophan the Recluse that makes me think of this day: “All the Christian mysteries shine here with their Divine light and enlighten the minds and hearts of those who with faith celebrate this great festival.”
First of all, we can set the mood by changing our nature table to a blue backdrop to make a landscape of kings. Perhaps a small house can be formed with rounded wood and a yellow veil, eight pointed stars and Mother Mary with her child upright on her lap. Some Waldorf Education sources recommend that Mother Mary receive a golden crown. The Kings approach a little closer each day and then slowly make their way home again after Epiphany. On Epiphany, the children may find twelve small candles burning on the morning of Epiphany. During the last day of January, Mary and Joseph and Jesus can make their way into Egypt.
In the Western Church, Epiphanytide extends from now until Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday). Epiphany means “manifestation” , although I have also heard it translated as “to shine above” or “to shine over”. The many facets of Epiphany show the ways that the Son of God is manifested to Jewish and Gentile alike. The first part of tradition concerns the Three Kings, and the second part of tradition concerns the Baptism of Our Lord some thirty years later. Some other explorations include the transformation of the water into wine at Cana and the Tranfiguration.
Tradition dictates that there were Three Kings, apparently derived from the three gifts they wrought: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts pointed to the mystical gifts of the Son of God. Over time, the Three Kings acquired names: Caspar (or Jasper or Gaspard), Melchoir, and Balthazar. Melchoir, the king in red, offer gold as a symbol of wisdom; Bathazar, the king in blue offers frankincense as a symbol of piety, and Caspar, in green, offers myrrh as a symbol of healing forces and vitality.
The feasting often begins on Twelfth Night, the night before Epiphany, and Epiphany, like Christmas, usually includes gift-giving. In some countries, Epiphany, not Christmas, is the main gift-giving holiday.
When the Wise Men come to visit Christ, they find him not in the manger where he was born, but at his house. So, there is often a focus on blessing the home at Epiphany. Some will see door jams marked in chalk with 20+C+M+B+17 and sprinkled with Holy Water and blessed by a priest.
The feasting usually involves a King’s Cake with a bean placed inside. The person receiving the bean either becomes the Queen or King for a day, (or may be the person who has to host the Candlemas party!). Here are a few recipes for this special day. I think this year we will actually be making rice pudding with a bean in it. Of course, in Latin America and Spain, a King’s Ring with a figurine of the infant Jesus inside is most customary. In those countries, children write letters to the Three Kings and leave their shoes out in anticipation of a gift. In Waldorf Kindergartens, sometimes star cookies are baked.
The Baptism of our Lord leads to the blessing of the water in church. In the Orthodox Church, bodies of water are blessed. I have some beautiful pictures of the Orthodox Theophany on my Epiphany Pinterest page. Most of all, the inner aspect of this festival stirs me. What am I manifesting in my life? What is still hidden inside and can be revealed? At the Baptism, the triune nature of God is revealed, and I can wonder how I can be faithful this year.
Possible stories for this Feast include:
- The Biblical Accounts
- The Story of Baboushka, found in “Festivals, Family, and Food” and in many picture books
- An Epiphany Story of the Tree, found in “Festivals, Family, and Food”
Many blessings to you on this special Feast,