Epiphany is a significant feast in our liturgical calendar. Often, churches celebrate Epiphany on the closest Sunday to it, which this year is January 8. However, January 8 is also officially the First Sunday after the Epiphany, where we celebrate the “Baptism of Our Lord.” The approximately seven weeks after Epiphany are often referred to as the period of Epiphanytide.
The Feast of the Epiphany is a celebration that originated in the Middle East and has been celebrated on January 6 since the 3rd century. Incidentally, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, who follow the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar that we follow, celebrate Christmas on January 7. Hence their Christmas Eve falls on our Epiphany celebration.
Early on, Epiphany was one of the three chief festivals of the Church, with the others being Easter and Pentecost. Epiphany was associated at that time with Christ's baptism. However, during the 4th century, Epiphany came to be associated in the Western church with the visit of the Magi, largely on account of a series of homilies given by Pope Leo I on the “adoration of the Wisemen.”
The word Epiphany originates from the Greek word "epiphaneia," which means an appearing, disclosure or unveiling. When the Western church adopted the Feast of Epiphany from the Eastern church, within a short time she separated the celebration of Christ’s birth from that of his baptism. Hence, the Epiphany focus for the Western church became "the unveiling of Christ” to the Gentiles - the Magi. In the Eastern Church, the focus of Epiphany continued to be on the commemoration of the baptism of Christ.
As the focus of Epiphany for the Western church has been on the extensive journey that the Magi took to find the Christ Child, the theme of Epiphanytide is often that of pilgrimage.