Epiphany (Gr. manifestation; in the Greek liturgy, the feast of the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles. That this feast was called Epiphany and celebrated in January is attested by Ammianus Marcellinus (xxi. 2), who says Julian kept it at Vienne in Gaul. That it was kept on Jan. 6 is seen in the constitutions of Valens, Theo-dosius, and Arcadius. Jan. 6 was held to be the day on which the miraculous star led the wise men to Bethlehem, and that on which Christ was baptized in the Jordan, as well as that on which he performed his first public miracle in Cana. St. Paulinus affirms that these three anniversaries were solemnized on this same day in the 4th century. Some African churches commemorated a fourth event, the multiplication of the five loaves by Christ. From the time of the council of Nice (325) this day was set apart throughout the East for the solemn administration of baptism. It was also the custom there, at midnight on the feast of the Epiphany, to fetch water from the springs, which was believed to keep fresh and pure the whole ensuing year.
St. Epiphanius says this was done in memory of the water changed into wine at Cana. It was on the Epiphany, in fine, that patriarchs and metropolitans yearly published the "paschal letters" announcing the precise time for the celebration of Easter and Pentecost. Several of them are extant.