Epiphany celebrates the Manifestation of Christ on Earth.
At the end of the twelve days of Christmas (or January 6th for those of you trying to count on your toes), the Epiphany festival begins for Protestants, Roman Catholics, and many other Christians. This is a season that extends through the Carnival and Mardi Gras festivities right up to Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Because various sects interpret the Bible differently, Christmas, and in turn Epiphany, may occur earlier or later in the season.
According to the Bible, upon news of his birth the wise men travelled to Jerusalem to see the newborn Christ. During their travels, a star appeared to guide them. Epiphany marks the arrival of the wise men and the appearance of this star as a symbol of Christ's appearance to the Gentiles. The festival of Epiphany also celebrates Christ's baptism by water as well as the marriage in Cana, where Christ performed his first miracle by turning water into wine.
In many countries, Epiphany means Christmas celebrations, including the traditional gift-giving and feasting. Some cultures celebrate Epiphany with symbolic gifts of the gold, frankincense, and myrrh that the wise men gave to baby Jesus. Some use the day to take down their Christmas decorations (tree, lights, etc). Others bake special cakes, go caroling and parade through the streets. Primarily, this season of adoration is celebrated within the church.
2005.8.15@14:25 doyle says re Epiphany: Ithink that the Wise Men didn't see an infant Jesus--it took a couple of years for them to get to their destination (Bethlehem? Jerusalem?). I didn't believe this either, until I read it--in the Bible. Cheers!