BUDAPEST, Hungary — The traditional ceremony of blessing the waters of the Danube River on the feast of the Epiphany is always an eagerly awaited event in the Hungarian capital.

In this more Byzantine-influenced part of Europe, Jan. 6 marks less the visit of the Three Kings to Baby Jesus in Bethlehem than the inauguration of Christ’s public ministry with his baptism in the Jordan River and the miracle of water turned to wine at the Wedding at Cana.

In Hungary, the feast of vízkereszt — literally “Baptism of Water” — marks the end of the Christmas season and the opening of the farsang carnival season, which in the Byzantine Catholic tradition lasts until the vespers of Cheesfare (Forgiveness) Sunday, on the eve of the start of Lent. Strongly rooted in the country’s folk culture, this commemoration is particularly popular in Hungarian villages, where, every year, faithful families sprinkle their homes with holy water from top to bottom.

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