Wednesday marks Three Kings’ Day, the last of the 12 days of Christmas and an opportunity for people around the world to feast and celebrate their faith. Observed annually on Jan. 6, Three Kings’ Day is a Christian holiday also known as Día De Los Reyes Magos and Epiphany. It revolves around the adoration of the three wise men, or magi, who visited the infant Jesus after his birth.
Three Kings’ Day has been separate from Christmas since at least the third century, though different churches recognize it on different dates. For example, Orthodox Christians in places like Russia celebrate the holiday on Jan. 19, while in Argentina the majority of activities occur the night of Jan. 5.
Traditions also vary depending on where you are. In Spain and other Latin countries, children place their old shoes outside their doors before going to sleep the night before. When they wake up, their shoes are full of toys.
Here are some other facts about Three Kings’ Day:
- The kings’ names were Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar.
- They gave Jesus gold, the essential oil frankincense and the resin myrrh.
- The kings brought their gifts in vessels called ciboria.
- Some children leave hay in their shoes for the kings’ camels to eat. Others leave letters to the kings. Sound familiar?
- Hispanic communities often serve rosca de reyes on the holiday. It’s a circular fruitcake inside which a small statue of a baby Jesus is hidden. Whoever finds it in their slice either throws a party on Candlemas Feb. 2.
- In 2013, Mexican bakers put together — and ate — a 1.2 mile-long rosca made with more than 43,000 eggs.
- Other traditional foods for Three Kings’ Day include Mexican hot chocolate and tamales.
- Three Kings’ Day activities often include the singing of aguinaldos, or Christmas carols.
- Disneyland will celebrate Three Kings’ day with a fiesta, mariachi bands and dancers. Vendors will serve rosca de reyes.
- In New York City, El Museo will host its 39th annual Three Kings’ Day parade from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST. Scores of people will turn out to watch the event, which Walks of New York reported features “honorary kings, thousands of costumed school children, live camels, gigantic hand-made puppets and performers who bring lively music and colorful dancing.” There’s a street party afterward.