When Kathleen Megown was a child at Indianola Presbyterian Church, a highlight of the holiday season came 12 days after Christmas to mark the visit of the wise men to the infant Jesus.

When Kathleen Megown was a child at Indianola Presbyterian Church, a highlight of the holiday season came 12 days after Christmas to mark the visit of the wise men to the infant Jesus.

The celebration at the University District church offered singing, a bonfire for discarded Christmas trees, spice cake and bayberry candles, and three men dressed up as the Magi.

While such grand festivities have gone by the wayside over the years, a number of groups across central Ohio have kept alive the tradition of marking the Jan. 6 religious holiday known as Epiphany or Twelfth Night.

“I see it as sort of the capstone on the whole Christmas story itself,” said the Rev. Steve Wachtman, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Upper Arlington, which will host its fifth annual German-language Epiphany Service in Song on Sunday. “It exhibits how the intimate moment in the manger scene is one that has an impact on the whole world.”

Megown is among those who will be performing with the Germania Singing and Sport Society at the Holy Trinity service. Songs will focus on the star that led the Magi to Jesus, and the image of Christ as the light of the world, choir director Mark Pinnick said.

Other churches also have planned Epiphany events. All Christian faiths place significance on the visit of the Magi, but celebrating it as a feast day is more common among denominations with more formalized church orders, such as Roman Catholic or Episcopal, said Adam Johnson, assistant professor of theological studies at Cedarville University.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, Magi from the East traveled to Jerusalem seeking to worship Jesus as a king of the Jews after seeing the star that marked his birth. King Herod, who wanted to kill the child, asked the Magi to report back to him with the baby’s location, telling them that he, too, wanted to worship. But after they followed the star to Jesus, a dream warned them not to return to Herod.

Tradition says the Magi are not kings but astrologers or wise men, perhaps associated with a priestly caste, and it is often speculated that they came from Persia, according to the InterVarsity Press Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. They are neither named nor numbered in the Scripture; the common belief that there were three might come from the reference to the Magi bestowing three gifts — gold, frankincense and myrrh — on the child.

The text, Johnson said, isn’t concerned with telling us the details. The point is to show that gentiles recognized the Messiah even though many Jews were not ready to do so.

“It hammers on the idea that the work of Christ — his incarnation, his death and resurrection — is not something done just for the church, it’s something done for all nations,” he said. “And if Christians are going to take that seriously, they have to think in terms of racial … and international relationships.”

Wachtman said the significance placed on Epiphany varies from congregation to congregation and from person to person. Some, he said, put up the Christmas tree on Christmas Day and take it down on Epiphany. Some exchange gifts on each of the 12 days. Others might move wise-men figures closer to the Nativity scene each day to represent their journey.

The Cantor Connection, a singing group, will have its Epiphany celebration onJan. 13 at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, 766 S. High St.

Nancy Raabe, secretary of the Cantor Connection, said the annual event at Zion is one of three “ best possible worship practices” events the group holds each year as a model for church musicians across the country. This will be its fourth year.

“Epiphany is often overshadowed by Christmas, so through this service Cantor Connection hopes to call more attention to this important season of the church year,” said Raabe, who attends Christ Lutheran Church in Bexley.

First Congregational Church at 444 E. Broad St. will host another singing group, the Early Interval, on Saturday and Sunday. The annual Twelfth Night concert, in its 22nd year, is part of the Early Music in Columbus concert series and will feature medieval, Renaissance and early baroque music from Flanders. The concert calls to mind the religious and secular celebrations that lasted from Christmas to Epiphany during the medieval and Renaissance periods.

“It’s a way for people to close out the holiday season,” said Katherine Wolfe, program director for Early Music in Columbus. “It really is the end of the Christmas season. People are looking for something to do.”