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MAIN Arrow to Home Life - HolidaysHolidays Arrow to Christmas Christmas Arrow to Three Kings - Epiphany Three Kings - Feast of the Epiphany Three Kings

Epiphany goes by various names in different cultures. Little Christmas, Three Kings Day, or Twelfth Night all remain the official end of the season's "Twelve Days of Christmas" --counting from Christmas evening on December 25 to the Ephiphany on January 6.

This year, Epiphany falls on Friday, January 6, 2017.

Epiphany is from the Greek word Epiphania, meaning "revelation".

In biblical terms, the word best describes the story of how the Magi or Three Kings - Caspar, (or Kaspar or Gaspar) Melchior and Balthasar - saw a bright star on the night Christ was born and followed it to Bethlehem. There they found the Christ child and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The legendary visit would later gave rise to the custom of gift giving at Christmas on the Feast of the Epiphany, today traditionally observed on January 6.


Hispanic Tradition

In Spain as well as other Spanish-speaking countries, the tradition has always been to observe Christmas Day as a solemn religious occasion, reserving Three Kings Day or Día de los Reyes for partying and exchanging gifts. However, in many Hispanic cultures gifts can be given on Christmas Day, on Three Kings Day -- or as double celebration on both days!


12 Days of Christmas & Other Traditions

In England, Epiphany or "Twelfth Night" was the last opportunity to make merry before a return to the usual toil of the workaday world. The traditional Yule log was kept lit until Twelfth Night in order to bring blessings & good fortune throughout the upcoming year.

A favorite Christmas carol also still commemorates gifts of partridges, french hens and golden rings in the olde English observance of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

In Germany, children go from house to house on Epiphany eve, singing carols and chalking the year and initials KMB (those of the kings, Kaspar, Melchior and Balthasar), near the entrance of each home. The festive Dreikonigskuchen or Three Kings Cake is also served that night to celebrate the occasion.

Several countries - most notably Italy and Russia - also share the long-held tradition of La Befana, (in Russia, Baboushka) who is a kindly old witch bearing gifts by climbing down the chimney on the night of January 5.

In Mexico, serving La Rosca de Reyes or Three Kings Cake, is still-popular family tradition on Three Kings Day, with good fortune bestowed on anyone who is lucky enough to find a figure of the baby Jesus baked inside.

also see in Christmas -> Las Posadas

"We Three Kings" printable lyrics


More about Epiphany and Three Kings Day around the Web:

Annie's Epiphany Page - A good collection of facts & information including liturgical and encyclopedic references, when and how Epiphany is celebrated worldwide, related links.

Los Reyes - Día de los Reyes or Three Kings Day - Puerto Rican style - with information on related customs, foods, hymns, and historical notes of the holiday.

How to Make Three Kings Cake - Four different versions including complete ingredients for the French traditional (Galette des Rois), German, Mexican (La Rosca de Reyes) and Spanish Three Kings Cake.

Epiphany Links and Resources - Liturgical resource with links to Epiphany seasonal prayer guides, artwork & sermons.


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