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Epiphany in Germany

Epiphany (Epiphanie, Epiphanias, Erscheinung des Herrn) is annually celebrated in Germany on January 6 to mark the Magi's (or three wise men's) visit  to baby Jesus. 

Epiphany celebrates the three wise men's visit to Jesus.
Epiphany celebrates the three wise men's visit to Jesus.
©iStockphoto.com/KIM FREITAS

What Do People Do?

Epiphany is also the end of the Christmas season. The German states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria and Saxony-Anhalt celebrate it as a public holiday.

Some people in Germany attend a special church service on Epiphany. If the church has had a crib display during the Christmas period, the figures representing the Magi are placed in the crib on January 6.  People with a crib scene at home do the same.  Children learn about the story of the three wise men and may act out the whole Christmas story. Homes and stables in rural areas are cleansed by burning frankincense and allowing the smoke to spread through the rooms.

People in some areas gather on Epiphany Eve (January 5) to drink to the health and luck of family and friends in the coming year. Special beer known as bockbier is brewed for this purpose. This type of beer has a stronger taste and a higher percentage of alcohol than other beers.

Groups of children go from house to house dressed as the three wise men between December 27 and January 6. They knock on the door of each house and sing hymns about the Jesus' birth and the Magi's visit. If the door is opened, they ask for money for a specific charity.

Public Life

Epiphany is a public holiday in the German states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria and Saxony-Anhalt. In these states, post offices, banks, stores and other businesses are closed. However, stores in some tourist areas may be open and stores at railway stations, airports and along highways are usually open.

Public transport services may run as usual, a reduced service or no service depending on where one lives or wants to travel. In the rest of Germany, January 6 is not a public holiday.

Background

Epiphany is a holiday to celebrate the visit of the Magi (three kings or wise men) to Jesus. According to Christian belief, the Magi followed a bright star shining in the sky to Bethlehem and brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. In the Christian traditions of western Europe, Epiphany generally marks the end of the 12-day Christmas period that started on December 25. Christians observe this holiday worldwide.

About Epiphany in other countries

Read more about Epiphany.

Epiphany Observances

WeekdayDateYearNameHoliday TypeWhere It is Observed
WedJan 62010EpiphanyChristian, Common Local holidaysBW, BY, ST
ThuJan 62011EpiphanyChristian, Common Local holidaysBW, BY, ST
FriJan 62012EpiphanyChristian, Common Local holidaysBW, BY, ST
SunJan 62013EpiphanyChristian, Common Local holidaysBW, BY, ST
MonJan 62014EpiphanyChristian, Common Local holidaysBW, BY, ST
TueJan 62015EpiphanyChristian, Common Local holidaysBW, BY, ST
WedJan 62016EpiphanyChristian, Common Local holidaysBW, BY, ST
FriJan 62017EpiphanyChristian, Common Local holidaysBW, BY, ST
SatJan 62018EpiphanyChristian, Common Local holidaysBW, BY, ST
SunJan 62019EpiphanyChristian, Common Local holidaysBW, BY, ST
MonJan 62020EpiphanyChristian, Common Local holidaysBW, BY, ST

Quick Facts

Epiphany on January 6 is a public holiday in 3 German states and commemorates the Bible story of the Magi's visit to baby Jesus.

Epiphany 2017

Friday, January 6, 2017 (Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt)

Epiphany 2018

Saturday, January 6, 2018 (Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt)

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Name in other languages

NameLanguage
Heilige Drei KönigeGerman
EpiphanyEnglish
Trettende dag julNorwegian

Alternative name

Helligtrekongersdag

List of dates for other years

Other holidays in January 2018 in Germany

Fun Holiday on January 6, 2018

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