Epiphany season

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Liturgical year

The Epiphany season, also known as Epiphanytide, is in some churches recognized as a liturgical period following the Christmas season. It begins on the day of Epiphany, and ends at various points as defined by those churches. Other churches reject the notion of an Epiphany season.

Epiphany to Candlemas[edit]

In Advent 2000, the Church of England introduced into its liturgy an optional Epiphany season by approving the Common Worship series of services as an alternative to those in the Book of Common Prayer, which in theory remains the church's normative liturgy and in which no such liturgical season appears.

An official publication of the Church of England states: "The Christmas season is often celebrated for twelve days, ending with the Epiphany. Contemporary use has sought to express an alternative tradition, in which Christmas lasts for a full forty days, ending with the Feast of the Presentation on 2 February."[1] It presents the latter part of this period as the Epiphany season, comprising the Sundays of Epiphany and ending "only with the Feast of the Presentation (Candlemas)".[2]

The Church of England's optional Epiphany season thus begins at Evening Prayer on the Eve of the Epiphany (which may be celebrated on 6 January or the Sunday between 2 and 8 January) and ends at Evening Prayer (or Night Prayer) on the Feast of the Presentation (which may be celebrated on 2 February or on the Sunday between 28 January and 3 February). The Epiphany season is seen as in some sense a continuation of the Christmas season, and together they last forty days. The three main events focused on during the Epiphany season are the visit of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and Jesus' miracle at the marriage at Cana. The visit of the Magi is traditionally interpreted as symbolic of God's revelation of himself to the Gentiles, and so one of the themes of the season is mission. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity also falls within the season, allowing another seasonal theme to be that of unity. The season culminates at the Feast of the Presentation, after which the liturgy stops looking back to Christmas and begins looking forward to the Passion. The colour for the season is white.

Epiphany to Ash Wednesday[edit]

Several Protestant churches celebrate an Epiphany season that lasts until the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the season of Lent.[3]

In some[which?] adaptations of the Revised Common Lectionary, used by many Protestant denominations, the Epiphany season begins on 6 January, and continues until the day before Ash Wednesday (which begins Lent). The last Sunday of Epiphany is Transfiguration Sunday.


Some Methodists in the United States followed this practice in 1964,[4] as did Methodists in Singapore in 2014.[5]


In one interpretation the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America celebrates on the day of Epiphany, 6 January, the revelation of Christ to all nations as represented by the magi who come to worship Jesus. The church calendar recognizes the season of Epiphany from January 6 until the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday which is celebrated as the Transfiguration of our Lord. The length of the season of Epiphany varies and is determined by working backwards through the season of Lent from the moveable date for the celebration of Easter. Among the principal themes are: the revelation of Christ to all nations, Jesus' baptism in the River Jordan, and Christ as the light of the world. The colours of the season are white (a colour associated with the festivals of Christ and suggesting gladness, joy and light for the day of Epiphany), used the first week after the Epiphany when the Baptism of our Lord is celebrated, and the last week of the season of Epiphany when the Transfiguration of our Lord is celebrated; and green, reminiscent of living plants and suggests spiritual growth. Green is used in the season of Epiphany beginning with the second week after the Epiphany until the week before the Transfiguration of our Lord is celebrated.[6]

In 2014, rather than speak of an "Epiphany season", the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America used the terms "Time after Epiphany" and "Time after Pentecost".[7] The expression with "after" has been interpreted as making the period in question correspond to that of Ordinary Time.[8][9]

No Epiphany season[edit]

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) states that neither Epiphany nor Pentecost are seasons, and that it is a misunderstanding to imagine that expressions such as "Fifth Sunday after Epiphany" indicate the existence of such a time as "Epiphany season". These expression merely indicate the passing of time, not the character of the period, for neither the period after Epiphany nor that that after Pentecost focus on a dominant event or theme. The correct term, it says, is therefore "Ordinary Time".[10]

The Catholic Church has recognized no Epiphany season. Until 1955, the feast of the Epiphany in the Roman Rite had an octave, and was thus celebrated from the vigil Mass on 5 January until 13 January. After Pope Pius XII removed this octave, the liturgy of those days continued to use the same texts as previously, thus giving to the period until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which replaced the Octave Day of the Epiphany, a special character that was still recognized by the 1960 Code of Rubrics. This defined the season of Christmas as extending from First Vespers of Christmas to 13 January inclusive, and divided this season into Christmastide, ending just before First Vespers of the Epiphany, and Epiphany (not Epiphanytide and, as is obvious, no longer the Octave of the Epiphany) from then until 13 January inclusive (one week).[11] The 1969 revision preserved the arrangement by which the Epiphany is part of the Christmas season, during which the liturgical colour is white, and which now lasts only until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This latter feast is now celebrated on the Sunday after 6 January, and thus most often earlier than 13 January.

The season immediately following the Octave Day of the Epiphany (until 1954), or the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (since 1955), and in which the liturgical colour is green, was for the first time given a name in the 1960 Code of Rubrics, which in Latin called it the season per annum.[11] The official English translation of the Roman Missal calls it Ordinary Time.[12] This season begins on 14 January. Until 1969, it ran from that date to just before First Vespers of Septuagesima Sunday, but since 1970 to just before Ash Wednesday. It resumes again with First Vespers of Trinity Sunday.