The Feast of the Epiphany—which in the United States is observed on the Sunday after January 1—is the day we celebrate that adventure and what it means to us as Catholics. The feast’s traditional date, January 6, marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas, and celebrates the arrival of the three wise men, or the Magi, in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. Upon their arrival, the wise men—which tradition has named Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar—are said to have presented Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The word epiphany means “manifestation,” which is exactly what the Magi represent—Jesus’ manifestation to the outside world. One place where the three wise men are still held in very high esteem is in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries where they celebrate El Día de Los Reyes. On the night of January 5, los reyes magos—the three wise men—deliver gifts to children.
Yet, despite their important role in the story of the birth of Jesus, the feast day honoring them and what they represent is often overlooked in the post-Christmas hustle and bustle. I’ll confess that there has been more than one year that I have found the wise men from my Nativity scene still hanging out on the windowsill where I placed them before Christmas, long after the other figurines have been carefully wrapped and put away.