Three Kings Day , Epiphany

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Three Kings Day , Epiphany

***** Location: Europe, Christian Communities
***** Season: Late Winter (Jan. 06)
***** Category: Observance


. Epiphany, koogen no hi 公現の日 こうげんのひ  
gokoogen 御公現(ごこうげん)
ju no gokoogen no iwaibi


The Feast of the Epiphany takes place each year on the fixed date of 6 January in the Western churches, and later in the Orthodox churches. This means that it occurs in winter in the Northern hemisphere, in the hot dry season in East Africa and in summer in the Southern hemisphere.

The Epiphany is the day when the arrival of the Three Wise Men or Magi in Bethlehem to worship the Christ child is celebrated by Christians the world over. The three wise men are seen as having come from different countries -- so, symbolically, this event heralds the arrival of the Messiah for the entire world.

The Christmas crib in All Saints’ Church, Mullingar, Ireland

In Spanish speaking countries, this (rather than Christmas) is the day when gifts are exchanged -- as the three wise men also brought their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child.

The Epiphany spells the end of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” and, on the following day, Christmas trees are undecorated and removed from the house, and Christmas cribs are removed from the church until the following year. The (longer) Epiphany season continues in church until it ends on Ash Wednesday, which is the start of Lent.

Text and photo © Isabelle Prondzynski


Three Kings Day is celebrated on January 6th, twelve days after Christmas. It is often viewed as the last day of the Christmas season (the end of the 12 days of Christmas).

Also known as The Epiphany, Three Kings Day (Día de los Reyes) is a Christian celebration that commemorates the Biblical story of the three kings who followed the star of Bethlehem to bring gifts to the Christ child. According to the Biblical story, the Three Kings – named Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar – presented the Baby Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Traditionally in Mexico, Three Kings Day was the gift-giving time, rather than Christmas day. Just as it is common for children to leave cookies for Santa in the U.S., in some regions of Mexico, it was customary for children to leave their shoes out on the night of January 5, often filling them with hay for the camels, in hopes that the Three Kings would be generous. Mexican children would awake on January 6 to find their shoes filled with toys and gifts.

Also traditional in Mexico is for families to gather together and share the Rosca de Reyes. The Rosca de Reyes is a crown-shaped sweet bread decorated with pieces of orange and lime. It is filled with nuts, figs, and cherries. Hot chocolate is traditionally served with the Rosca de Reyes.

© 2006 Calendar Updates


The Visit of the Wise Men
Matthew 2 : 1 - 12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

© http://bible.oremus.org/


Epiphany means the showing of God to all nations.

The Magi follow a star. They are not deterred by the evil scheming of Herod; like many good people, they seem hardly to perceive his wickedness, but make good use of the information he offers. They bring gifts; the gold of Gaspar, the myrrh of Melchior, the frankincense of Balthasar. And in the Christian tradition, they symbolise all nations, and every race.

There were three kings, and O what a sight!
One was yellow, and one was white,
and one was black as Epiphany night
on Christmas Day in the morning

~ Sacred Space, The Prayer Book 2007 :
from the web site www.sacredspace.ie

Worldwide use


Crib from All Saints' Cathedral Nairobi
Photo Isbelle Isabelle Prondzynski



In the Philippines which has the longest days of celebrating Christmas, from the middle of December to January 6, any godchild who fails to receive his Christmas gift from his godfather for some reason or another, has January 6 (Three Kings Day) as the last day where he can visit his godparents and still get a Christmas present
or two.

three kings day
the last time to ask for
Christmas presents

Victor P. Gendrano, 2007


Traditions of the Epiphany

Christianity celebrates the Magi on the day of Epiphany, January 6, the last of the twelve days of Christmas, particularly in the Spanish-speaking parts of the world.

In these Spanish-speaking areas, the three kings (Sp. "los Reyes Magos de Oriente", also "Los Tres Reyes Magos"), receive wish letters from children and magically bring them gifts on the night before Epiphany. According to the tradition, the Magi come from the Orient on their camels to visit the houses of all the children; much like the Northern European Santa Claus with his reindeer, they visit everyone in one night. In some areas, children prepare a drink for each of the Magi, it is also traditional to prepare food and drink for the camels, because this is the only night of the year when they eat.

Spanish cities organize cabalgatas in the evening, in which the kings and their servants parade and throw sweets to the children (and parents) in attendance. The cavalcade of the three kings in Alcoi claims to be the oldest in the world; the participants who portray the kings and pages walk through the crowd, giving presents to the children directly.

In France and Belgium, the holiday is celebrated with a special tradition: within a family, a cake is baked which contains one single bean. Whoever gets the bean is "crowned" king for the remainder of the holiday.

This tradition also exists in Spain, but with one small variant; the cake, in this case actually a ring-shaped pastry or Roscón de Reyes, is most commonly bought, not baked, and it contains a small figurine of a Magus and a dry broad bean. The one who gets the figurine is crowned, but whoever gets the bean has to pay the value of the cake to the person that originally bought it.

A tradition in some Polish (Slavic) homes involves writing the initials of the three kings above the main door of the home to confer blessings on the occupants for the New Year. For example, K + M + B 2007.*


Lovely page showing how the festival is celebrated in Tenerife (Spain), complete with this photo :



Puerto Rico

Día de Reyes : If you are Puerto Rican then you have to celebrate Los Reyes. After Christmas put a Reyes statue as a centerpiece on your dinning room table so the kids know - it's no over yet "faltan los Reyes."

Celebrate it Puerto Rican style, that is.... have the kids cut grass or greenery on January 5th and put it in a box under their bed.


Put a small gift from Los Reyes in the box once they fall asleep - and don't forget to throw out the grass. Have a special and festive Día de Reyes meal that day. Take pictures of your children with their boxes. After dinner make it a tradition to sing a Reyes song.

Los Reyes arrive before dawn on January 6th. For centuries Puerto Rican children have celebrated Los Reyes in the same manner as their grandparents did when they were children. January 6 is called Epiphany and is traditionally the day in which the Magi arrived bearing gifts for the Christ child. Even to this day in Hispanic countries throughout the world, January 6 is the day that children receive their Christmas gifts, in commemoration of the Magi's visit.

... Much more on this page, with some seasonal music too :



Dia de Reyes (Epiphany) : Each year, this Mexican Christmas tradition continues. The children gather at the Alameda Central Park in Mexico City to visit the Three Magi (The Three Kings) and hand-deliver letters with their wishes and gifts in the tradition of the Three Wise Men who came from the East, following the star of Bethlehem, and presenting the Christ Child with gold, incense and myrrh.

The traditional Epiphany supper of ring-shaped cake with hot chocolate originated in Spain and made its way to Mexico. The cake is decorated with sugar and dried fruit. A small figure, representing the Christ Child, is hidden inside the cake. The century old tradition states that whoever finds the "Child" is spiritually obliged to present the figure at the nearest church on February 2nd and offer a tamale-party in his honor.



La Befana is a character in Italian folklore, similar to Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus. The character may have originated in Rome, then spread as a tradition to peninsular Italy.

Her name derives from the festival of Epiphany, and she visits all the children of Italy on the night of 6 January to fill their socks with candy if they are good or a lump of coal if they are bad. Being a good housekeeper, many say she will sweep the floor before she leaves. The child's family typically leaves a small glass of wine and a plate with a few morsels of food, often regional or local, for Befana.

She is usually portrayed as an old lady riding a broomstick through the air wearing a black shawl and is covered in soot because she enters the childrens houses through the chimney. Unlike a witch though, she is often smiling and she has a bag or a hamper filled with candy and/or gifts.

Legend has it that La Befana was approached by the Astrologers some days before Christ's birth. They asked for directions to where the Christ Child was, but she did not know. She provided them with shelter for a night, as she was considered the best housekeeper in the village with the most pleasant home. They invited her to join them on the journey to find the Christ Child, but she declined, stating she was too busy with her housework. Later, Befana had a change of heart, and tried to search out for the Astrologers and the Christ child. That night she was not able to find them, so to this day, La Befana is searching for the Christ child. She leaves all the good children toys and candy, while the bad children get coal; for she never knows who might be Jesus!

Traditionally, all Italian children may expect to find a lump of "coal" in their stockings (actually rock candy made black with caramel coloring), as every child has been at least occasionally bad during the preceding year.

In the center of Rome, in Piazza Navona, a popular Market, the Fiera della Befana takes place each year between Christmas and the Epiphany. There toys, sugar charcoal and candies are sold for the Roman children.

The feast of la Befana in Rome has been immortalized in four famous sonetti in roman dialect by the nineteenth century roman poet Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli.

There is a poem about La Befana, which is well-known throughout Italy. Here it is:

La Befana vien di notte
Con le scarpe
Tutte rotte
Vien vestita
Alla romana
Viva, Viva La Befana!



Trinidad and Tobago

Overlap : In the first month of the global calendar year, those of the Christian ethic will observe the Christmas season up until January 6th, for Christians the Solemnity of the Epiphany.

Meanwhile, Carnival loving Trinis (nationals of Trinidad and Tobago), are already selecting their costumes to masquerade on the streets, and calypso and soca singers are airing their music on the radios,TV, and in the fetes (Carnival parties).

On 19th and 20th Feburary 2007, Trinis will celebrate the annual street festival of carnival (some call it the world’s greatest show).

Gillena Cox

Things found on the way


wise men guided by a star,
to the newborn baby.
who made the stars

© Haiga by Clark Stephen, 2007


Christmas crib --
a toddler joins
the three wise men

Isabelle Prondzynski, 2007


Bright shimmering star
Lights up the three wise men's path
Babe in manger lie

Annalise Iannelli


Three men
known only for their gifts:
the Magi

J.D. Heskin (USA)


Epiphany -
a kokeshi doll
comes to me

- Shared by Elaine Andre -
Joys of Japan, 2013

. Kokeshi, Wooden Dolls こけし .

Related words

***** Christmas

***** . Christian Celebrations in Winter






Gabi Greve said...

Eisiger Nordwest,
dick verwehte Landstraße. —

Horst Ludwig, USA

Anonymous said...

Great Post...loved it..

Anonymous said...

Since Epiphany is the time for gifts, the Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist churches in Stevenson, Washington are going to do the following: Each person picks a colored ribbon bow upon entering the church.
At the Offertory, each person reflects on what gift they bring to the Lord in 1998 or what they will do in the new year. They then will either place the ribbon in the collection plate or bring it up to the crèche and place it before the crib.

Richard Jos