Because we’re usually busy taking down decorations and trees, we can easily forget the Epiphany. It falls twelve days after Christmas, which is today, January 6. The Epiphany is one of the oldest Christian feasts. It is celebrated by many denominations: Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox Christians. Roman Catholics and Protestants emphasize the visit of the Magi, The Three Kings, to the baby Jesus. That day is commonly known as Three Kings Day.
Some churches, particularly the Eastern Orthodox, celebrate the Epiphany as the day when John the Baptist baptized Jesus and when Jesus began his teaching. Other churches use the Epiphany to celebrate and remember both the visit of the Wise Men and Jesus’ baptism.
The word Epiphany also means manifestation or revelation. Both the visit of the Wise Men to the baby Jesus and his Baptism are important times when Jesus was “revealed” to be important. On a personal level an epiphany can mean a sudden understanding or an insight.
As a Catholic Syrian, it was a day to attend Mass. It was also the happy day to make Zalabee. Zalabee is a doughnut-shaped cake that is fried in oil then, when cooled, sprinkled with sugar. The sugar signifies sweet and everlasting life.
My mother made the doughnuts, as she did all the Syrian and American pastries. With Zalabee, she more than doubled the recipe. My brother Charlie fried what seemed hundreds of doughnuts then handed them to me. Holding a bowl of sugar, I would sprinkle them then place them on a tray. Eventually we would trade posts, always doing our best to eat as many doughnuts as possible—because we knew the next step.
Our mother boxed the doughnuts into several containers and it would be our job to distribute them to the many folks she watched out for. She also emphasized that we remember to smile and spend a few minutes with the recipients.
Cold and shivering on the way home after our distribution duties, we laughed and complained to each other, but never to our mother.