The wise men finally arrive
Hopefully some of you will have read my piece on our crib service, in which I explained that our figures of the wise men travel round the church before reaching our Nativity scene or tableau making the scene complete.
For all of us in western Christianity the feast or service of Epiphany mainly celebrates the wise men arriving at the stable in Bethlehem to visit the infant Jesus, bringing with them gifts of
- Gold (self-explanatory).
- Frankincense, a resin which is bleed from trees, and hardens to look like crystals. Like grapes on a vine, differences in the soil, the climate and weather conditions create a difference in the resin, and unfortunately like everything in this world, the Frankincense tree seems to be decline.
- And myrrh, a gum like substance, again bleed from a tree, initially looking waxy but set quickly to form a hard-glossy appearance. This has been used throughout history for perfume, incense and medicine.
The celebration of Epiphany first began in the 4th century and is celebrated on the 6th of January for which this year (2020) will be on the Monday, however since 1970, the celebration of this feast in some countries is held on the Sunday after January 1st.
For us here at St Francis our service on Sunday 5th is when we will mark and celebrate this.
You might come across a slight difference in the date in different countries. In the east churches following the Julian calendar celebrate this on for what most countries is January 19th, this is because of a 13 day difference between this calendar, and the one we use in the west, the Gregorian calendar.
The eve of this celebration is known widely as twelfth night, a belief that Christmas decorations need to be taken down and it is unlucky to leave them up passed this date, however, fear not, all is not lost, leaving them up until Candlemas, (the end of the celebrations for Epiphany) will give you final chance to take them down.
Also, the Monday after epiphany is known as plough Monday, this is the traditional start of the English agricultural year, the resumption of work after the Christmas period.
Epiphany it seems is full of customs here are just a few.
Epiphany singing, children dressed as the wise men walking from house to house has its roots in a medieval play.
Three Kings cake, (sometimes shown as kingcake, kings' cake, king's cake,) is a type of cake associated in a number of countries with the festival of Epiphany at the end of the Christmas season; in other places, it is associated with the pre-Lentern celebrations of Mardi Gras/Carnival.
This started out roughly 300 years ago as a dry French bread–type dough with sugar on top, but now comes in many varieties depending on the country. Some king cakes are made of a sweet brioche dough in the shape of a hollow circle with a glazed topping sprinkled with coloured sugar.
Winter swimming, Yeap you guessed it, swimming in open water or unheated pools or lidos, even at time breaking surface ice - great!
And finally having your house blessed and chalking the door which seems to go hand in hand, and this is generally what happens and what we do at St Francis.
During the Epiphany service the priest/vicar blesses a plate of chalk pieces which you are then given to take home with you to mark your front door, porch, or step with the following patten (this for 2020)
The numbers refer to the calendar year, the crosses stand for Christ and the letters have two meanings, C,M, and B are the initials for the traditional names of the wise men, Caspar Melchior and Balthasar, but it is also an abbreviation of the Latin blessing Christus Mansionem Benedicat which means “May Christ bless this house”
So there you go, quite an extensive round up of this celebration, we hope that if you have visited us during our Christmas services you’ll come back and see us again sometime this year, and perhaps, slightly late, but from us all at St Francis, we wish you a very happy and healthy new year.