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Epiphany and Epiphanytide 

The twelfth day of Christmas is 5 January. After this, we enter a new season.

Epiphany: 6 January or the nearest Sunday  The Epiphany (Greek for to manifest or to show) marks the coming of the Magi (wise men). In some cultures it is a more significant feast than is usually the case in the UK, and often marked with special food – such as cake. The Orthodox Church – which calls this feast the Theophany – marks this as the principal feast of the Incarnation. The current pattern in the Anglican Church is to have an extended Epiphany season (called Epiphanytide). This is why Nativity scenes are sometimes kept in churches throughout January.

Epiphanytide  Rather confusingly, however, the other two main ‘manifestations’ marked in Epiphanytide concern Jesus as an adult: his baptism in the River Jordan, when the Holy Spirit descends on him in the form of a dove (on the Sunday after Epiphany), and his first sign: the turning of water into wine at the marriage feast in Cana in Galilee. This latter event – the third ‘epiphany’ of the season – is only to be found in John’s gospel.

Candlemas: 2 February or the nearest Sunday; also known as the Presentation of Christ in the Temple This refers to the event described in Luke 2.22-40. Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the temple to offer a sacrifice, where Jesus is identified by Simeon and Anna as the coming Messiah. This is a key source text for the identification of Jesus as the Light of the World, as Simeon describes Jesus as ‘a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’ His words, known as the Nunc Dimittis, are often recited at evening services, such as Compline. Candlemas Eucharists involve a candlelit procession. Candlemas concludes Epiphanytide and the Incarnation cycle. At the end of the Eucharist, candles are extinguished as we turn our thoughts towards Lent.

The liturgical colour of Epiphanytide is white – to signify joy.