January 6 marks the close of the Christmas celebration for many Christians. On this day, known as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day, people celebrate the visit of the magi to the Christ child. While some people are very familiar with this feast day and the customs surrounding it, others are less so. Here are some facts about Three Kings Day.
Three Kings Day also goes by the names Little Christmas, Denha, Theophany, D’a de los Reyes, and the Baptism of Jesus.
The Epiphany marks the twelfth day of Christmas, falling 12 days after December 25.
It is customary for some celebrants to bake ring-shaped cakes and hide a plastic baby figurine representing the baby Jesus inside. In Latin cultures, the cake is known as Rosca de Reyes, or ‘The King’s Ring.’
The Bible does not specifically mention the number or names of the magi who visited Jesus. However, oral tradition has it that there were three and their names were Gaspar, Balthasar and Melchior.
The gifts given to Christ were gold, frankincense oil and the resin myrrh. The gifts are symbolic of Jesus’s importance. The gold represents his royal standing, frankincense his divine birth and myrrh his mortality.
Children may leave their shoes out on the Epiphany for presents, similar to the way stockings are hung. The shoes are filled with hay or treats for the Three Wise Men’s camels. In exchange, candies and toys are left for the children.
Three Kings Day is one of the most significant religious holidays in Latin America, where the magi are more prominent figures than Santa Claus.
In Britain and elsewhere, Twelfth Night is the evening that precedes the Epiphany, and Christmas decorations should remain up until then. Also, until as recently as the 1950s, Twelfth Night was a time for wassailing. Wassailers went house to house singing and wishing neighbors good health.
Until the 19th century, the Epiphany was more important than Christmas Day.
Roast lamb was traditionally served on the Epiphany.