From gift giving to feasts, Christianity has always celebrated many different holidays in different forms. However, there is one holiday that tends to stand out from the rest. That holiday is Three Kings Day. So follow us on our ship into the past as we learn about Three Kings Day.
The history of Three Kings Day
Also known as Epiphany or Theophany, Three Kings Day is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God in his Son as human in Jesus Christ. The observance had its origins in the eastern Christian churches and was a general celebration of the manifestation of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. It included the commemoration of his birth; the visit of the Magi, all of Jesus’ childhood events, his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, and even the miracle at the wedding at Cana in Galilee.
It seems fairly clear that the Baptism was the primary event being commemorated. The earliest reference to Epiphany as a Christian feast was in A.D. 361, by Ammianus Marcellinus. St. Epiphanius says that Epiphany(Three Kings Day) is hemera genethlion toutestin epiphanion, which translates to “Christ’s Birthday; that is, His Epiphany”
He also asserts that the Miracle of Cana occurred on the same calendar day. In a sermon delivered on December 25th 380 A.D., St. Gregory of Nazianzus referred to the day as ta theophania(“the Theophany”, an alternative name for Epiphany). He said that it is a day commemorating the holy nativity of Christ and told his listeners that they would soon be celebrating the baptism of Christ.
Then, on Three Kings Day, he preached two more sermons, where he declared that the celebration of the birth of Christ and the visitation of the Magi had taken place and that they would now commemorate his Baptism. At this time, the celebration of the two events was being observed on separate occasions.
St. John Cassian said that even in his time (the beginning of the 5th century), the Egyptian monasteries celebrated the Nativity and Baptism together on January 6th. The Armenian Apostolic Church continues to celebrate Three Kings Day as the only commemoration of the Nativity.
How to celebrate Three Kings Day
To celebrate, all that we really have to do is prepare a large meal for our family and friends, invite them over, and enjoy the day that is in fact Three Kings Day.