In the early Eastern Christian church, the birth of Christ was celebrated on the Feast of Epiphany which began on the eve of January 5, and which happens to be the birth anniversary of Paramahansa Yogananda.
When the celebration day of Christmas was changed to December 25, the days between the two dates became the traditional ‘Twelve Days of Christmas,’ with January 5 being celebrated as Twelfth Night. Today in the west Epiphany celebrates the visit of the Three Kings, or Magi, from the East bearing gifts for the Christ Child.
Paramahansa Yogananda writes in The Second Coming of Christ (Discourse 3, see below) that the Magi, or Three Kings, who followed the star from the East to visit the baby Jesus, were from India; he also noted in Autobiography of a Yogi that the Christian saint Therese Neumann once identified a Catholic bishop from India as being from the land of the Three Kings.
“Epiphany is the climax of the Advent/Christmas Season and the Twelve Days of Christmas, which are usually counted from the evening of December 25th…In following this older custom of counting the days beginning at sundown, the evening of January 5th is the Twelfth Night. …
“In traditional Christian churches Christmas, as well as Easter, is celebrated as a period of time, a season of the church year, rather than just a day. The Season of the Church Year associated with Christmas actually begins with the first Sunday of Advent, four Sundays before Christmas Day. Advent is marked by expectation and anticipation in preparing to celebrate the coming of Jesus. Christmas begins with Christmas Day December 25 and lasts for Twelve Days until Epiphany, January 6, which looks ahead to the mission of the church to the world in light of the Nativity.”
The following article, which appeared in the Times of India, gives additional information:
Epiphany: Festival of The Twelfth Night
from The Times of India, by Anniyil Tharakan
Epiphany was originally celebrated by the people of the Eastern Churches, commemorating Christ’s birth … It was the “Christmas” of the Christian Orient.
The Twelfth Night celebration begins on the evening of January 5 and the feast of Epiphany is celebrated on the following day. In the Jewish tradition a day begins the previous evening. The ceremonies and festivities are called “revels.” Comedies were performed at the courts and homes of nobles. Shakespeare’s comedy, Twelfth Night embodies the genial spirit of the Twelfth Night’s revelry…
In the tradition of the western Churches the festival marks the visit of the three Wise Men or Magi from the East to the infant Jesus.
Epiphany celebrates the intervention of God in the life of a people…In the past it was also known as the Twelfth Day as it falls on the twelfth day after Christmas and winds up formally the Christmas season of rejoicing.
Much has been written about the whereabouts of the Wise Men from the East who were led, as the Bible says, to the infant Jesus by the course of the stars they read in the sky. India, Victor Cousin wrote, was the centre of the East and the East was identified with India. So the Biblical reference to the three Wise Men visiting Infant Jesus could well have been from India. Why would wandering yogins travel all the way to Judaea?
Roman historian Suetonius pointed out that there had spread all over the East the belief that some great sage was to be born into Judaea, who will spiritually transform the world. The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, which the Magi carried to the Babe, are the traditional eastern ways of honouring a great personage.
Paramahansa Yogananda, The Second Coming of Christ
There is a very strong tradition in India, authoritatively known amongst high metaphysicians in tales well told and written in ancient manuscripts, that the wise men of the East who made their way to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem were, in fact, great sages of India. Not only did the Indian masters come to Jesus, but he reciprocated their visit. During the unaccounted-for years of Jesus’ life—the Scripture remains silent about him from approximately ages fourteen to thirty—he journeyed to India, probably traveling the well-established trade route that linked the Mediterranean with China and India.* His own God-realization, reawakened and reinforced in the company of the masters and the spiritual environs of India, provided a background of the universality of truth from which he could preach a simple, open message comprehensible to the masses of his native country, yet with underlying meanings that would be appreciate in generations to come as the infancy of man’s mind would mature in understanding.
*Footnote~~about Therese Neuman ~~
*”Among Westerners who concur that the Wise Men came from India is the great twentieth-century mystic and stigmatist Therese Neumann of Konnersreuth, Germany, who experienced weekly visions of Jesus’ passion and crucifixion, the “stations of the cross.” (See Autobiography of a Yogi, Chapter 39.) … the following incident is related:
“The visit to Konnersreuth in September, 1932, of His Excellency Bishop Alexander Chulaparambil of Kottayam, INDIA…afforded interesting evidence of Therese’s ability in the state of ecstasy and corporal blindness to recognize what must be unknown to her in a normal state. The companion of His Excellency wrote me as follows: ‘Neither Therese nor the pastor knew of our coming….After a few minutes Father Naber motioned to His Excellency to come close to the bed. When the Bishop touched Therese’s left hand, she held it fast. “This is a high pastor from the land whence the Kings came to worship the Christ Child,” [she said.]'” (Publisher’s Note)