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Epiphany

EPIPHANY

EPIPHANY. Epiphany (from the Greek word for 'manifestation') is the Christian festival that commemorates the revealing of Jesus Christ to the Gentile world, as personified by those "wise men from the east" who came "to worship him" (Matthew 2:12). In Britain it has another, more prosaic, name, Twelfth Day, because it falls on 6 January, twelve days after Christmas. Over time, the plain gospel account of this momentous encounter became richly embroidered with learned commentary and loving speculation. The "wise men" stepped from the shadows and were deemed to be three in number, each one a mighty king who knelt in turn to pay homage and present his gift to the greatest king of all. The festival formed the end and climax of the Christmas season, marked by a joyful and elaborate church service and much cheerful celebration, with parties and presents, fine feasting, and a favorite game. In this game, played in many parts of medieval Europe, a mock-king was selected to reign over the party, be toasted by loyal subjects, and, sometimes, enjoy the doubtful privilege of paying for the wine downed in his honor. He was chosen not on merit but by the chance that was hinted at in his official title, "King of the Bean." A bean had been hidden in a cake, and the lucky man who found it became king of the company. The woman who pulled out the corresponding pea was hailed as his queen.

This traditional game remained popular, but in Britain a variation was developed during the late seventeenth century. Guests still enjoyed their cake, which was dark, dense, packed with dried fruit, and often crowned with almond paste and white icing. However, instead of choosing their king and queen by bean and pea, they drew paper lots. The new custom became a craze, and was elaborated until every slip or card bore the name of some character. Each person present thus had a part to play, and the monarchs mingled with such farcical figures as Sir Tunbelly Clumsy and Miss Flirt, Captain Tearaway, and Lady Racket. The character cards might be homemade or bought at any bakery or toy shop during the Christmas season.

In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Twelfth Night cake and characters were enormously enjoyed, so much so that the custom found its way to those parts of America, such as Virginia, that were strongly influenced by British taste.

But the fashion that flared so brightly for a while had burned itself out by the end of the nineteenth century. Twelfth Day became just an ordinary date in the British calendar, and its cake was absorbed into the Christmas Day festivities. In France, however, and, incidentally, in Louisiana, where French traditions are strong, the Bean King still reigns. Bakery windows display tempting versions of the "Galette des Rois," made of sweet brioche or puff pastry, and in each a bean or, alternatively, a tiny porcelain baby Jesus, is concealed, a guarantee of instant pleasure for children.

See also Christianity; Christmas; Christmas Drinks; Easter; Feasts, Festivals, and Fasts; Lent; Shrove Tuesday .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bauman, James. "Les Galettes des Rois: The Eating of Fine Art." Petits Propos Culinaires 27 (October 1987): 716.

Belden, Louise Conway. The Festive Tradition: Table Decoration and Desserts in America, 1650-1900. New York: W. W. Norton, 1983.

Chambers, Robert, ed. The Book of Days. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1990. Entry on 6 January, Twelfth Day.

Edwards, Gillian. Hogmanay and Tiffany: The Names of Feasts and Fasts. London: Geoffrey Bles, Ltd., 1970.

Hadfield, Miles and John Hadfield. The Twelve Days of Christmas. London: Cassell, 1961; Boston: Little, Brown, 1962.

Henisch, Bridget Ann. Cakes and Characters: An English Christmas Tradition. London: Prospect Books, 1984.

Hone, William. The World of William Hone: A New Look at the Romantic Age in Words and Pictures of the Day. Compiled, introduced, and annotated by John Wardroper. London: Shelfmark Books, 1997.

Miles, Clement A. Christmas Customs and Traditions: Their History and Significance (1912), reissued New York: Dover, 1976.

Saint-Ange, Mme. E. Le Livre de Cuisine. Paris: Larousse, 1927.

Bridget Ann Henisch

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Epiphany

Epiphany (ĬpĬf´ənē) [Gr.,=showing], a prime Christian feast, celebrated Jan. 6, called also Twelfth Day or Little Christmas. Its eve is Twelfth Night. It commemorates three events—the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1), the visit of the Wise Men to Bethlehem (Mat. 2), and the miracle at Cana (John 2). In his baptism Jesus' sonship to God was manifested to the world; in the visit of the Wise Men he was manifested as king to the Gentiles; and at the marriage feast at Cana his power to perform miracles (a divine prerogative) was shown. In popular celebration the feast is far more ancient than Christmas. Technically it is more important than Christmas, ranking after Easter and Pentecost. It is a day of gifts in many countries. In the Eastern Church the waters are blessed on this day. The word epiphany means a manifestation, usually of divine power. Thus the actual appearance of God (as in the burning bush) or a moment of divine revelation may be called an epiphany.

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"Epiphany." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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epiphany

e·piph·a·ny / iˈpifənē/ • n. (pl. -nies) (also E·piph·a·ny) the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12). ∎  the festival commemorating this on January 6. ∎  a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being. ∎  a moment of sudden revelation or insight. DERIVATIVES: ep·i·phan·ic / ˌepəˈfanik/ adj.

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"epiphany." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Epiphany

Epiphany (Gk., epiphaneia, ‘manifestation’). An appearance of a divine or superhuman being. In Christian use it refers specifically to a feast celebrated on 6 Jan. It originated in the E., where it celebrated the baptism of Jesus and, at least in a secondary way, his birth. Epiphany spread to the W. Church in the 4th cent., but here it became associated with the ‘manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles’ in the person of the Magi of Matthew 2. 1–12.

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"Epiphany." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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epiphany

epiphany Christian feast celebrated on January 6. It originated in the Eastern Church as an observance of the baptism of Jesus. In the West, it became associated with the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles and more particularly it has come to celebrate the coming of the Magi (Three Wise Men).

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epiphany

epiphany manifestation of a supernatural being. XVII. — Gr. epipháneia manifestation, appearance of a divinity, f. epiphanḗs manifest, epiphaínein (see prec.).

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"epiphany." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"epiphany." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/epiphany-3

"epiphany." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/epiphany-3

Epiphany

Epiphany (feast of) the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. XIII. — (O)F. épiphanie, — ecclL. epiphania — ecclGr. epiphánia n. pl. of *epiphánios, f. epiphaínein manifest, f. EPI- + phaínein show; see -Y3

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