Epiphany Journey

I have trouble understanding those who take down the tree the day after Christmas. One sweet friend, who likes for her decorations to be down before the start of the New Year, recently told me, “I’m just ready for it to be gone.”

I am not ready, friends. 

The splashes of red around my house fill me with untold joy. 

The glimpses of the Nativity with solemn gratitude.

All the presents have been opened; the feasts well-attended…but we’ve yet to reach the Christ child. 

The twelve days of Christmas are not over.

Fellow sojourners, we journey to January sixth, the day of Epiphany on the church calendar. The day tradition holds that the Magi arrived in Bethlehem. The day we celebrate the incarnation of Christ.

Our culture holds little pomp for this humble day. My Presbyterian calendar marks it, but our traditions rarely recognize it. Curious, I began exploring how some other cultures observe this hallowed day. From Wikipedia to personal blogs, it’s quite a tale.  

I discovered some interesting traditions.

In Bolivia, for instance, on the night before the Feast of Epiphany, children set out their shoes with letters in them for the Magi.

In Puerto Rico On January 5th, the feast of Epiphany’s Eve, children place water and grass under their beds for the Three Kings’ camels. The Three Kings leave presents under the bed after the camels eat the grass. 

Children in Germany go from house to house on Epiphany eve, singing carols and writing the initials of the Magi in chalk (KMB–tradition holds the names of the three kings as Kaspar, Melchior and Balthasar), near the entrance of each home. The festive Dreikonigskuchen or Three Kings Cake is also served that night to celebrate the occasion.

Children in Spain fill their shoes with grain for horses of these traveling kings to eat . The shoes are then placed on balconies or by the front door on Epiphany Eve. They find their shoes filled with cookies, sweets or gifts the next day. 

Here, I am told that “Some Christian cultures, especially those of Latin America and some in Europe, extend the season to as many as forty days, ending on Candlemas (February 2).”

Imagine. Husband would really complain if I left my splashes of red up that long!


Dictionary. com defines it as “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.”

That’s what the Feast of Epiphany celebrates. The realization that Christ incarnate is among us. God With Us. Emmanuel.

We miss the wonder in that, I think, when we gloss over Epiphany. The beauty of Christmas is lost without it. 

Like the kings of old, I seek him. My journey toward Christ continues. 

Epiphany happens every day when I carry Christmas in my heart.


  1. says

    This post is so timely… Ann Voskamp posted about Advent when I was considering what that meant, and now you have posted about Epiphany when I have been thinking about that – just this morning! I have more thoughts that must come out sometime, but for now, thank you! I hope your Christmas has been wonderful!

  2. says

    “My journey toward Christ continues.
    Epiphany happens every day when I carry Christmas in my heart.”
    What a statement to carry into the new year! Praying that you and your family have a wonderfully blessed 2010!!

  3. says

    When I studied in Mexico during college, I arrived on January 5. The next morning, the Three Kings had left small treats for me in some little shoes they left out for the occasion. I am still touched, since they had JUST met me.

  4. says

    I’m for extending the season. We still have all the decorations and reminders of the season up. Still have all of our company, too. My son is leaving today, but others will continue for up to a week. I like making the season a big deal. The birth of The One was certainly the biggest event in history; why hurry through the observation of it? I like some of the customs you shared. Good post.

  5. says

    My little tree (iron with birds and animals) is still up.

    I have always loved reading about the 12 Days traditions in other countries; there are some wonderful ones in your post.

    An artist I know is creating assemblages for each of the days leading to the Epiphany. They are as unconventional as they are creative.

  6. says

    I’m with you, Laura. The tree stays up and smells so good for awhile, the Advent candles continue to burn. Thanks for sharing about the Epiphany traditions in other countries. Yes, it is good to carry Christmas in our hearts and Emmanuel, God with us, at all times.

  7. says

    i like the red wreath…pretty!

    red makes a good accent colour all year around i think…

    where different celebrations come from and how they change over the years…and the variety of celebrations in different parts of the world is all really quite interesting.


  8. says

    Yes, I am with you on keeping the Christmas decorations up through Epiphany. I do not want to let Christmas go. Sometimes I leave them up until Candlemas as well. There are times I have a strong feeling there is something left to learn. The decorations stay up until it feels ‘right’.

  9. says

    I had my epiphany last night, and it had absolutely nothing to do with my decorations (which are already packed away) and everything to do with my heart. I enjoy Christmas much more after the craziness calms down.

    You’re right; Christmas should be a 365 day adventure for us. Holding God Incarnate within arms reach, close enough to hear him, celebrate him, fall on our knees is swift surrender to him.

    He’s what gives my 2010 hope, prospect, and peace.

    Love you, precious one. By the way your “red” decorates a whole lot lovelier than mine. Mine just looked dopey.


  10. says

    I long to be all GOD created me to be…HE has been working on me a lot, lately.
    Blessings, andrea

    PS: I have a prayer request on arise 2 write.

  11. says

    I took down the decorations early this year because I have so much to do next week. I felt so sad and the house seems a bit empty. I don’t like to see Christmas end. So I love the idea of Epiphany. I want to draw closer to Jesus – to celebrate His coming into my life every day.
    Thank you for this Laura. You do such wonderful things!

  12. says

    Thank you Laura. I have decided to learn more about Epiphany, Lent and so on, this year, so your post is timely. I do like that you have a Christmas photo up of one of your boys. An idea for me for next, whoops, THIS year! 🙂

  13. says

    Laura, we celebrate the twelve days as well, only taking the tree down once Epiphany is over. In our house, Christmas is a joyful, spiritual celebration that focuses on Christ and our response to God’s love incarnated for us.

  14. says

    Thank you, Laura. Some of mine stay up through January because my heart says to keep them there. One small nativity stays all year. And this year, I added one more item to remain all year as well. Christmas is never “just gone”, it is always!

  15. says

    Everything is still up here.
    No rush to get it all out, no rush to take it down.
    Great post, Laura.
    We used to get together for an Epiphany feast , but with kids returning to school out of town , etc. it changes. But I must remember to grow in this, not have it become less.
    The best wishes for a wonder filled New Year.
    For you and your beautiful family.

  16. says

    Yes ma’am, a nativity scene has a permanent place at our house. Ever since I was storing Christmas decorations and my then toddler son said, “Oh mamma, Jesus doesn’t belong in a box.”

    Thank you for the learning here today.

    By the way, we keep the red decorations up until blooms start budding!


  17. says

    I remember you have a beautiful home from your poem on the kitchen (I think it was).

    Our Christmas goes through Jan. 6, too. We’re taking our decorations down Thursday.

    Love you,

  18. says

    Hey friend, as usual I loved your heart poured out here!

    As usual you bless me with your visits so my blog.
    Thank you for your sweet words!

    I’ve just started writing on my blog my journey into grace. It will be done in stages. I sure hope it works out.. I’m a bit tentative about writing about it… what if I run out of words????

    Loved my visit here today!

  19. says

    I linked over from Ann’s blog, too. Lovely post on Epiphany, and you have a beautiful blog!

    As a Catholic family, we try very hard to celebrate liturgically in our home. Advent is celebrated as a time of waiting, hopeful anticipation, cleansing and preparing of our hearts and homes. We try to trim the tree slower and later than many would prefer–we put the tree up around the first or second Sunday of Advent, sometimes with a purple ribbon and white lights. Then around the third or fourth Sunday of Advent, we do trim the tree (because I find it a little too hectic to do on Christmas Eve or Day). But, we reserve our new ornaments, which we exchange on Christmas Eve just before bed, and trim the tree with them. Thus, our tree trimming is not *complete* until Christmas (for us, Christmas is ushered in on Christmas Eve, when Christmas Vigil masses begin).

    The Catholic church has been recently moving the celebration of Epiphany to the Sunday nearest to January 6, but we split the difference at home and celebrate Epiphany from that Sunday through Jan. 6. This year we enjoyed reading Tomie de Paola’s Story of the Three Wise Kings.


    Also around Jan. 6, I move my Wise Men close to the Creche. Before this, they’ve been on the far end of my mantle. 🙂

    Blessed Epiphany!

  20. says

    my daughter has been begging to make king’s cake. hmmm maybe we need an epiphany tradition…

    i like my splashes of read up from the week before Thanksgiving until New Year’s day. this year they were sadly only up three weeks due to our home being for sale and other various oddities. my 3 yo cried when i took down the tree. i might have shed tear or two also.

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