Three King’s Day (Epiphany) – Around the World

Did you know that in some countries the Christmas celebration doesn’t end with Christmas day? Many people celebrate King’s Day or Epiphany on January 6th (12 days after Christmas). In the Western part of the world, this date is to celebrate the coming of the Magi to see baby Jesus and people meet to eat and celebrate together. In the Eastern part of the world, the celebration of Epiphany is more related to celebrating the baptism of Jesus. The focus tends to be on blessing water, blessing homes, and eating together.

In Mexico, people commonly believe that the Wise Men/Magi or Tres Reyes Magos were named Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar and travelled by horse, camel, and elephant to deliver presents of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to baby Jesus.

Growing up in Mexico, we followed some of the traditions of the Día de los Reyes (Day of the Kings). One of these is the tradition of buying a balloon for each small child and letting them attach a list to it. They let the balloon go and send it into the air…it is said that the Kings then receive the list (much like writing a letter to Santa Claus). The children leave their shoes by their bed or the door on January 5th, hoping that the Kings will leave them gifts on the morning of January 6th. My brother sent off a balloon for a year or two, but I felt I was too old for this tradition when we moved there. Of course, this didn’t stop me from putting my shoes out. 🙂 Usually my parents only gave us small trinkets in our shoes, since we had just celebrated Christmas, but many Mexican kids received larger gifts.

Rosca de Reyes

Another part of the celebration that takes place in Mexico is the Rosca de Reyes, which is a special sweet bread in the shape of an oval ring. It has candied fruit on top and a miniature baby Jesus doll hidden inside. Families and friends get together to split the Rosca de Reyes and each participant gets a piece. The person who ends up with the hidden doll inside their piece is supposed to then treat everyone there to a tamale dinner on February 2nd (the Day of the Candles). My parents participated in this with the neighbors, and the person who got the baby Jesus usually hosted a taco dinner, instead.

In Brazil, the Day of Kings is called Día do Reis. The night of January 5th is a night of celebrations with music, food, and treats. Many people put away their Christmas decorations then, as well.

France has two different kinds of kind bread or cake, depending on where you live. If you are from the North, you will probably eat a flat, round, flaky cake that is filled with frangipane or fruit. This is called Galette des Rois, and it usually has a trinket or bean baked into the cake. If you get the piece of cake with the bean in it, you are king or queen for the day and you get to wear a cardboard or paper crown. If you are from the South, the cake might be more crown-shaped and is usually filled with fruit.

Filipino children also leave their shoes out for the Kings to leave treats on Araw ng mga Tatlóng Hari (Three Kings Day). In some parts of the Philippines, three men dress up as “kings” and ride around giving treats to the children in the area.

In my research, I could not find anything about King’s Day celebrations in Zimbabwe or Indonesia (the other two countries found in Missionary Kid Stories). I did however, find information about many other countries. If you search for King’s Day or Epiphany, you can find information about how other countries around the world celebrate, too.

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