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A Look at the 3 Kings Day Celebration

December Holidays
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The modern-day 3 Kings Day celebration centers around the Christian tradition of the Feast of the Epiphany. Traditionally, this is the day where the three magi, following the bright star that appeared in the sky on the night Christ was born, arrive in Bethlehem and present the child with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. While in some cultures that celebrate Christmas, this feast day goes largely ignored, for others, it plays an important part in their celebrations. Here’s a look at the traditions behind 3 Kings Day celebrations and some of the ways this day is currently recognized across the globe.

The Modern 3 Kings Day Celebration

Today, many cultures have a 3 Kings Day celebration. Here are some ways this day is recognized worldwide.

  • In Mexico, their biggest celebration is reserved for 3 Kings Day, or El Dia de los Reyes. While Christmas day is also a day of festivities, this holiday is celebrated twelve days later and marks the highlight of the holiday season. Children send letters to the Wise Men requesting gifts and fill their shoes with hay for the camels on the eve of January 5. Then, January 6 is a day filled with gifts, feasts (including Rosca de Reyes, a festive sweet bread baked in the shape of a king’s crown), and family gatherings. Similar customs are followed in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries.
  • In England, 3 Kings Day is more commonly known as Twelfth Night and is considered the final day of Christmas celebrations. The traditional Yule log is still kept lit by some families until Twelfth Night, as it is believed to bring blessings and good fortune throughout the upcoming year.
  • In Germany, children spend the eve of 3 Kings Day going door to door singing carols. It’s traditional to serve 3 Kings cake, or Dreikonigskuchen, as part of the celebration. In the Netherlands and Belgium, children make their rounds traveling in groups of 3 and often dress in costume.
  • In the Philippines, 3 Kings Day marks the end of the Christmas season. Here, children also leave their shoes out for the 3 Kings to leave gifts.
  • In Italy, the kindly old witch Befana visits the children of Italy on the eve of January 6 to fill their socks with candy and presents if they’ve been good (or coal if they’ve been bad). This tradition can be found elsewhere in Europe, most notably in Russia where the gift-giving witch is known as Baboushka.

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