An introduction to the Epiphany (Yordan)

Yordan (Epiphany) – January 19th

The final day of the Christmas season and one of the greatest feasts of the Eastern Church (celebrated since the second century) is Epiphany or Yordan. It commemorates the baptism of Christ in the river Jordan by St. John the Baptist when God appeared in the three Persons. As Jesus was standing in the water, the Holy Ghost in the appearance of a dove was seen above Him, while the voice of God the Father was heard to say, "This is my beloved Son in Whom l am well pleased!"

On this day, it is the custom to bless water— a river, a lake, or the sea. or now in modern churches, a vessel of water — in a great ceremony including a procession with the carrying of banners and the cross. In Ukraine and sometimes in communities in the U.S. and Canada where Ukrainians had settled, this blessing of water was held outside at a local body of water such as a river or lake. The men of the community would build a large cross of ice blocks near where the water was blessed and dyed it red with beet kvas (a fermented beet juice). The incensing of the water by the priest signifies the descent of the Holy Ghost to Christ during His baptism. During the ceremony, three special candles are immersed in the water; this is to remind us that through Christ’s baptism our sins are destroyed and forgiven. After the ceremony, the people take some of the blessed holy water to keep in their homes during the coming year.

After the meal on Epiphany Eve, the Christmas tree would be taken down and the didukh would have been carried out and burned in the orchard or pasture.


The Blessing of the Home

It is the custom on Epiphany after the blessing of the water or in the days following this feast, for the priest to visit his parishioners to their home with holy water. In some areas, such as when distances visiting all the homes difficult, the father of the family may be the omwho blesses the home.

The home is tidied and prepared in advance for this visit, for it would not be right to not have the home in order. When the priest comes, he is accompanied by one of the family the oldest or the youngest through the house. While he sprinkles the rooms with Holy \X/art-r blessed on Yorclan, the priest prays that the home is kept a place of love and security for the family that lives there and that the family he protected from evil of body and soul and be given abundantly of Godk goodness health, hope, and happiness, courage and confidence, awareness and assurance of His lasting Rove and presence.

This ceremony of the blessing of the home signifies the new beginning of both the new year and of baptism when the soul is cleansed.


The Feast of St. ]ohn the Baptist – January 20th

This feast is another synaxis, or day commemorating one associated with the feast of the previous day, as St. ]ohn the Baptist was present when Christ was at the river Jordan. On this day, the kolach which was on the table throughout the days between Christmas Eve and Yordan was taken out at daylight by the father and fed to the cattle to "last them until the new bread."

Thus ends the holy clays of the Christmas season. Following this time, there is a new period of marriages, up until the beginning ofLent and the greatest holy day of all, Easter.

Taken from ‘Ukrainian Christmas – Traditions, Folk Customs, and Recipes’ by Mary Ann Woloch Vaughn