Christmas and Epiphany (Denha)
The first common feast celebrated by all Christians is Easter – the Resurrection of our Lord. The second feast that developed in the whole of Christianity is January 6th, the Manifestation of our Lord, the manifestation of Divinity in the humanity of Jesus. This feast first started in the Alexandrian Church. January 6th was the feast of god Aeon, the god of light for Alexandrians. Gradually, all the eastern Churches and finally the western Church accepted this feast. The western Church, however, changed the meaning of the celebration giving emphasis to the visit of magi.
The word 'Yalda' commonly refers to the Persian Winter Solstice Celebration. It is not clear when and how the world 'Yalda'; entered the Persian language. The massive persecution of the early Christians in Rome brought many Christian refugees into the Sassanid Empire and it is very likely that these Christians introduced and popularized 'Yalda' in Iran. It is originally a Syriac word that has been imported into Persian language from Syriac. Its meaning is birth and refered to the birth of Jesus Christ.
The earliest record available regarding the lifestyle of St Thomas Christians of India could be the narriations of Joseph the Indian*. His narrations show that the St Thomas Christians observed the fast of Advent and celebrated the Nativity and Epiphany of our Lord.
It is common for families to make crèches in their gardens that actually look like miniature cattle-sheds. Many parishes have prizes for the best crèche. In recent years, carol singing and santa claus have been introduced, all in full western style. The midnight Qurbana celebration is the most festive occasion. The practice of lighting fire or Theeyuzhalicha is done outside the main entrance of the church. This practice is unique and is a symbol of the fire that kept baby Jesus warm.
*Joseph the Indian could be the first St Thomas Christian from India, who visited Europe in 1501 AD with Pedro Alvares Cabral. He met Pope Alexander VI. His narrations gave first hand information about the lifestyle of St Thomas Christians and even Hindus and Jews lived in the Malabar Coast.
Credits: Mr Mathew Mailaparampil and Fr Varghese Pathikulangara, CMI.
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