Christians Celebrate Epiphany

Twelfth-day carol singers. (Stock photo by TASR)

Bratislava, January 6 (TASR) – The Christian festival of Epiphany, or ‘Three Kings’ (‘Traja krali’ or ‘Tri krale’ in archaic Slovak), is being celebrated in Slovakia and many other countries on Friday, January 6.

The Roman Catholic Church regards this holiday as representing one of the most significant events in human history. In Slovakia, the festival is marked by Holy Masses celebrated throughout the country.

According to the Bible, wise men from the East were led by a star to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem, arriving twelve days after his birth to present gifts of gold (for a king), frankincense (for a priest), and myrrh (as a symbol of suffering).

The pilgrimage of the three magi/kings, by tradition called Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, their arrival in Bethlehem and the presentation of gifts are a traditional part of Nativity scenes and plays.

In Slovak villages, the holiday was once marked by carol singing and other festivities. Priests would go to houses to bless them and sprinkle holy water, while their acolytes swung censers filled with fragrant thyme.

Such twelfth-night processions are now rare, referred to mainly in songs and hymns pertaining to the festival.

Many customs were associated with Epiphany. Landlords would place three crosses lined with garlic and holy water on the lintel of each door in order to ward off evil spirits.
People went to church to have their candles, salt, water and chalk blessed. These were believed to help in healing, preventing natural disasters, and when sowing crops.