Let’s be clear about something. Epiphany falls on 6 January. Always has, always will. This year, the year of grace 2018, 6 January is a Saturday.
Great feasts have vigils. Vigils are moments of penance, preparation, recollection. We fast before our feasts.
In the ancient Church, Epiphany was more important than the feast of the Nativity, celebration of which developed later.
In the Western, Latin Church, on Epiphany we traditionally mark manifestations or revelations of the Lord’s Divinity during His earthly life. So, the Vespers antiphon for Epiphany sings of the acknowledgement of the Lord by the heathen Magi, the Baptism of the Lord by John when the Father’s voice was heard, and the first public miracle the Lord worked at the Wedding at Cana. All three were manifestations, epiphanies, of the Lord’s Divine nature.
On the preparatory Vigil of Epiphany, today, there is a custom of blessing special “Epiphany Water”. It was once reserved to bishops, but priests can do it. The texts are wonderful and the accompanying rites are beautiful. It is carried out in the context of a service like Lauds or Vespers. There is a long exorcism against Satan and apostate angels, which includes:
Therefore, accursed dragon and every diabolical legion, we adjure you by the living + God, by the true + God, by the holy + God, by the God who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have life everlasting; cease your deception of the human race and your giving them to drink of the poison of everlasting damnation; desist from harming the Church and fettering her freedom. Begone Satan, you father and teacher of lies and enemy of mankind. Give place to Christ in whom you found none of your works; give place to the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church, which Christ Himself purchased with His blood. May you be brought low under God’s mighty hand. May you tremble and flee as we call upon the holy and awesome name of Jesus, before whom hell quakes, and to whom the virtues, powers, and dominations are subject; whom the cherubim and seraphim praise with unwearied voices, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts!
There are exorcisms of salt and water, of course, before their mixing, and the Te Deum is sung. It is seriously, in-your-face CATHOLIC, and therefore boldly to be done everywhere.
On Epiphany there are special blessings for chalk for marking the doors of homes to be blessed, along with a special home blessing. We also bless gold, frankincense and myrrh. Bring all your myrrh to church for a blessing.
Also, on Epiphany we sing what is known as the Noveritis. This is the solemn announcement of the movable feasts – from the Pontificale Romanum – for the year now underway. (Remember that Epiphany isn’t supposed to be a movable feast!) The dates of Easter, etc., change every year, so you have to adapt the chant each year. For this year’s chant, go HERE for a PDF with the proper dates in Latin, in Gregorian notation. The chant is rather like the Exsultet.
In some countries, we bless salt, bread and eggs, which were then distributed to the poor. It would be great to have these things blessed, and perhaps take them to a food shelf (along with other foods that can be blessed).