Sunday, January 6th, marks the celebration of Epiphany – a.k.a. Twelfth Night, Three Kings Day, la Fiesta de Reyes. Epiphany honors many sacred events within Christian traditions – the day the child Jesus was visited by the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, his first miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding .
In New Orleans, however, January 6th is most widely celebrated as the night we transition into a new season – from Holiday to Carnival. [Note: We have four fairly distinct seasons in New Orleans: Holiday, Carnival, Festival, and Hurricane.]
The seasonal changes brought by Epiphany are quite visible. Red, green, and blue lights are exchanged for purple, green, and gold lights. Doors and windows bedecked with Christmas wreaths and menorahs transform into doors decorated with Carnival wreaths, masks, and Mardi Gras beads. And the music changes too – carols are gone, replaced by Mardi Gras tunes.
Epiphany is the first day of King Cake season. It is the night of Phunny Phorty Phellows, hopping onto the St. Charles Avenue streetcars, heralding the start of Carnival. It is the birthday of Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, and a carnival krewe marches in her honor from the Bienville statue (representing the founding of New Orleans) to the Joan of Arc statue at Decatur and St. Phillip Street.
Epiphany is the night we welcome collective joy, in the form of Carnival, back onto center stage in our lives.
Carnival offers us an opportunity to take a break from taking ourselves so seriously, from our expectations about how the world should be, and gives us a chance to engage in the healing joy of communal celebration. The work of transforming ourselves and the world is on-going. And it is through seasonally and repeatedly choosing joy that we can find the energy we need to continually commit to this work.
“I think that the energy to do all those things [to help make the world a better place] comes from choosing joy,” writes the Church of the Larger Fellowship’s Lynn Ungar. “You can inspire people to a certain degree by sheer terror…However, if we’re going to keep those changes going, if we’re going to find new and creative ways to build better lives, then I think we’re going to have to draw on some deep wells of joy.”
Epiphany opens the lid on a deep well of joy for me and my city.
What is your source of joy?
Where do you find your energy to make the world a better place?