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Christians celebrate Epiphany, Orthodox believers Christmas

The Christian festival of Epiphany, or "Three Kings/Sages" (Traja králi), as it is known in Slovakia, was celebrated on Thursday, January 6.

The Christian festival of Epiphany, or "Three Kings/Sages" (Traja králi), as it is known in Slovakia, was celebrated on Thursday, January 6.

In Slovakia, the festival is marked by masses celebrated throughout the country, the TASR newswire wrote. According to the Bible, wise men from the East were led by a star to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem, arriving twelve days after his birth to present gifts of gold (for a king), frankincense (for a priest), and myrrh (as a symbol of suffering). The pilgrimage of the three kings, by tradition called Casper (Gašpar), Melchior (Melichar), and Balthazar, their arrival in Bethlehem, and the presentation of gifts are a traditional part of Nativity scenes and plays.

In Slovak villages, the holiday was once marked by carol-singing and other festivities. Priests would go to houses to bless them and sprinkle holy water, while their acolytes swung censers filled with fragrant thyme. Such twelfth-night processions are now rare, and referred to mainly in songs and hymns pertaining to the festival. Many customs were associated with Epiphany. Landlords would place three crosses lined with garlic and holy water on the lintel of each door in order to ward off evil spirits. People went to church to have their candles, salt, water, and chalk blessed. These were believed to help in healing, preventing natural disasters, and when sowing crops. Noodles were cooked in the belief that this would cause the crops to grow well.

Members of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Slovakia are preparing to celebrate their Christmas holidays, which fall on January 6-9 according to the old Julian calendar (so-called because it was introduced by the Roman emperor Julius Caesar). Around 50,000 people, mainly in eastern Slovakia, are officially registered as Orthodox believers. Most of them celebrate Christmas Eve, or 'viliya', on January 6, and celebrate the birth of Christ on January 7 rather than on December 25, which is the date according to the Gregorian calendar, which was introduced under Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.

Source: TASR

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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