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Epiphany, it's the other Christmas - Curt Yeomans

There are only a few more days before the Catholic Church finishes it's celebration of the 2008 Christmas season.

"They are still celebrating Christmas?" is probably your reaction.

Yes, those of us who are Catholics are still celebrating Christmas. We don't stop until we commemorate the "Epiphany of the Lord," which will be celebrated this weekend.

Of course, it is not just Catholics who celebrate the Epiphany this weekend. Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Anglicans are some of the other branches of Christianity that also celebrate the Epiphany.

You see, Christmas is not just a day in the Catholic Church. It is actually the first day of the brief Christmas season. Epiphany officially falls on Jan. 6, the twelfth day of Christmas. It is there to wrap things up.

This is why you will hear some Christmas carols, like "Joy to the World" and "O Holy Night" being sung in Catholic churches after Christmas day.

At least, that's the way it is done in the church I grew up in.

In some places, the Epiphany holds a special meaning beyond the religious one. In New Orleans, it is a key date in the tourism calendar, because it is the official start for the "Carnival" season that spans the Epiphany and the day before Ash Wednesday.

You may have heard of the final day of "Carnival" season, it's called "Mardi Gras."

For those of you keeping up with me, the Epiphany is the Catholic Church's "little Christmas" as they called it in Sunday school classes. It represents the point where the three Magi, or "wise men," as they came to be known, visited Jesus in the manger.

See, and you thought the manger scene you see every Christmas represented something that happened on Christmas day.

I actually think Epiphany gets a bum wrap, thanks to all the attention paid to the first day of Christmas.

Think about it. The Magi are the key part of the story of the nativity. You would think people, who claim to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, would celebrate the whole thing. They would not just go "Oh, we're past Christmas day, time to move on." That is the secular attitude. That is the approach the retailers take to Christmas.

It is actually kind of embarrassing that people think all of the meaning of Christmas can be summed up in one day.

The day itself was only the beginning of the story. There was another act which came after the birth of Jesus. The Magi were asked to spy on the baby Jesus for King Herod. They were supposed to reveal his whereabouts,so Herod could have him killed. Instead, the Magi said "OK" to Herod's face.

But, once they were on their way, they took the approach of "Forget this crazy King Herod, let's take the other route home after we present our gifts."

That is a pretty significant part of Jesus' birth. It is also pretty significant to the Christian faith, because Herod could have ended it all long before the walking on water, the crucifixion and resurrection came into play.

Given all that it means to people, it truly deserves more than the occasional mention on a calendar. Hopefully, you'll keep that in mind when the Epiphany comes around this year.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.