With the final needles of the now parched Christmas tree ready to fall to their grave on the den floor, the liturgical season transitions from Christmas to Epiphany. 

Epiphany, celebrated Jan. 6, is the traditional day to once again haul out the boxes from the attic and refill them with the Christmas decorations and outdoor lightings that have been brightening the homestead since shortly after Santa paraded past Macy’s on Thanksgiving Day. Christmas is officially over, minus the less enjoyable tradition of opening the bills in January and learning just how much Santa cost. 

The word “Epiphany” is Greek and means “manifestation.” As such the Epiphany celebrates the revelation of God in his son as human in Jesus Christ. 

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Early Christians began celebrating the feast of the Epiphany in the 4th century. According to St. Matthew’s Gospel, the three Wise Man followed the star of Bethlehem across the desert, eventually meeting the baby Jesus and the Holy Family. 

The three men, named Melchior, Capar and Balthazer, brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, all symbolic in their own right, with gold representing Jesus’ royal standing, frankincense his divine birth and myrrh his mortality. 

Although the Epiphany is Jan. 6, some Catholic churches celebrate the day on the Sunday after Jan. 6, which is not an issue this year. Orthodox Christians celebrate the feast day on Jan. 19. 

Worldwide, festivities may include swimming in icy waters, exchanging presents and perhaps even a parade. Some countries even observe Epiphany as a national holiday. 

Epiphany is known as Dia de los Reyes in the Hispanic community and in Mexico people gather to sample Rosca de Reyes (Kings bread), which is that culture’s version of a revered south Louisiana tradition. In some Hispanic cultures, a baby Jesus is hidden inside the cake and whoever finds it is obligated to host a party on the Feast of the Presentation, which is likely more costly than buying a cake for your office mates next Friday. 

The Epiphany is often viewed as the official end of the festive season but, of course, we south Louisianaians know different. For us, Twelfth Night is the official start of perhaps the most festive, if not rowdiest, time of the year, that being Carnival. Mardi Gras balls are set to begin in earnest, all with the promise that parades cannot be far behind. 

In the past, Twelfth Night was also the unofficial start of the king cake season but that has evolved during the past several years to the point where the delicacy has become a pre-Christmas favorite. 

But the linking of Epiphany and Carnival is another example of how our secular south Louisiana culture has strong ties to our religious beliefs.