Buried under heaps of a continuing gift-giving tradition of Christmas for uncountable scores is the stamp on the symbol of Three Kings Day which falls today, 12 days after the celebrated birth of Jesus Christ.
The celebration falls on January 6 this year, the Sunday after New Year’s Day.
In previous decades, Filipinos celebrated this religious holiday on January 6, whatever day it was, until the Vatican Council reset the date to the Sunday after New Year’s Day.
Thus, Yuletide in this predominantly Christian nation of 106 million people, which began with the first Advent Sunday in November, ends today on the Feast of Epiphany.
The Epiphany season, also known as Epiphanytide, is in some churches recognized as a liturgical period following Christmastide, and begins on the day of the Epiphany and ends on various dates as defined by those churches.
This is where at times the confusion lies. Some count 12 days from December 25, while others begin the count on December 26, with the 12th Night—when the three wise men arrived in Bethlehem—as falling on January 6.
These three kings, also referred to as the three wise men, had, according to tradition, a mission to go to Bethlehem and they followed the star that showed them the way to see the newly born Jesus.
On arrival, the three offered three gifts: gold, incense and myrrh.
Epiphany or Theophany, celebrated since the end of the second century, is the Christian tradition that marks the revelation of the “Son of God” in the form of a human and remembers as well his baptism.
The three—Melchior, from Europe; Balthasar, from Africa; and Caspar, from the Middle East—followed the star of Bethlehem to meet the baby Jesus.
What is obviously forgotten in the celebration of this mysterious visit is the symbolic unity of the event, which is penetratingly absorbing, regardless of religious undercurrents, done at a time when war left in ruins much of civilization.