Family Ideas for Epiphany (January 6)

The great festival, Epiphany, celebrates the revelation of Christ as Savior of the whole world. This was made known through the coming of the wise men. God had revealed to them by the star that the baby Jesus was God come to live among people. It could be said that the theme of Epiphany is "Jesus is the light of the world." Light and stars make good symbols for this season. Note that Epiphany comes at the darkest time of the year for those in the northern hemisphere.

The Christmas decorations are put away, although on Epiphany Eve, the tree lights may remain on the bare tree to underscore the theme "Light of the World--a light to the Gentiles." Some families keep out the camels and some of the stars from their Christmas decorations to illustrate how this season grows out of Christmas.

Twelfth Night*

Epiphany is a festival that lends itself well by theme and tradition to fun family activity. Before beginning the evening meal on Twelfth Night (Epiphany Eve), use the following service. It may also be used again on the Sundays in Epiphany. There is one white candle lit in the center of the table. There is an unlit white candle at each place.


(sing) "Shine, Jesus, Shine" or "We Are Marching in the Light of God (Siyahamba)"


God, who by a star led wise men from far away to see the child Jesus; draw us and others to him, so that, praising you now, we may in life come to meet you face to face; through Christ our Lord. Amen.


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Jesus is the light of the world.


A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.


Neither do people light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick. And it gives light to all that are in the house. (Each person lights his/her personal candle from the Christ candle.)


(Holding candles high) Let our light so shine before people that they may see our good works and glorify God.


Thank the Lord, for he is good and his mercy endures forever. Amen.

For dessert, have a special Epiphany cake. This is traditionally a spice cake but some families prefer a chocolate/coconut Bundt cake. The Bundt shape cake resembles a crown. Place a ring of bright gumdrops (yellow, orange, and red) around the top of the cake to form "jewels" for the crown. The cake conceals three foil-wrapped coins—one for each of the wise men's gifts. The person to find a coin leads a procession around the house. Because the wise men brought frankincense, light frankincense in an incense burner and carry it around the house. In Austria this means, "Tonight the wise men (kings) are coming; we must make them feel welcome." Incense is a symbol for prayer and each family member offers a statement in each room about what they as a family hope to experience there in the coming year: good sleep, good food, good fellowship, etc.

Ponder: How do we as a family want to witness to the light of the world during this season? How will the light spread? As you find creative ways to spread the light in your community and around the world, consider concrete reminders for family members. Perhaps you would like to leave the porch light on or fly a banner/flag. Your family may put electric candles in the window. You might spend more time star gazing on clear evenings. If your family enjoys crafts, consider making Chinese lanterns. How will your light touch the hearts of those around you?

Epiphany Season*

During the remainder of the season, use a different verse each week on the theme of light ("Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you," Isaiah 60:1; "Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life,'" John 8:12; "For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light...Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord," Ephesians 5:8-10, etc.). Children can take turns lighting candles for the evening meal and being the leader for the verse. As it is repeated throughout the week, it usually isn't long before everyone can say it by heart.

* We thank Carol Myers for sharing some of these family celebrations.