From gift-giving to feasts, Christianity has always celebrated many different holidays in different forms. However, there is one holiday that tends to stand out from the rest. That holiday is Three Kings Day. So follow us on our ship into the past as we learn about Three Kings Day.
Learn about Three Kings Day
It may seem crazy to think that Santa Claus isn’t as popular in some households as he is in yours! However, in the likes of Mexico and other countries across Latin America, the three wise men are the gift bearers, leaving presents in the shoes of small children (or near to their shoes if the presents are too big!). This is known as the Epiphany, which dates back to the 4th century. Because of this, Three Kings Day is a vital holiday across Latin America. However, there is nothing stopping you from celebrating this day no matter where in the world you are.
There are a number of different traditions that are associated with Three King’s Day. The first is the act of gift-giving! Who doesn’t like receiving gifts? On the 5th of January, the Three Kings will be added to the nativity decorations in the home. Children will then leave their shoes out so that the wise men can fill them with gifts.
Another tradition is the al fresco feast. Like any good celebration, food plays a huge role on Three Kings Day. In Latin American countries, the feast is enjoyed al fresco, which means outdoors. Traditional dishes include rice and black beans, as well as slow-cooked meat, plantains, nopales, yucca, soups, and much more! You will have plenty of delicious treats to get stuck into!
We cannot mention Three Kings Day without mention Rosca de Reyes, which is the king’s cake. This is considered the highlight of the celebrations on this date. The cake is shaped into a wreath, and it is studded with nuts and candied fruit, which represent jewels in the Magi’s crown. To really go down the traditional route, a tiny doll of baby Jesus must be hidden within the cake. If you receive this doll in your serving, it means that you need to host the Candlemas celebration in February.
History of Three Kings Day
Also known as Epiphany or Theophany, Three Kings Day is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God in his Son as human in Jesus Christ. The observance had its origins in the eastern Christian churches and was a general celebration of the manifestation of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. It included the commemoration of his birth; the visit of the Magi, all of Jesus’ childhood events, his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, and even the miracle at the wedding at Cana in Galilee.
It seems fairly clear that the Baptism was the primary event being commemorated. The earliest reference to Epiphany as a Christian feast was in A.D. 361, by Ammianus Marcellinus. St. Epiphanius says that Epiphany(Three Kings Day) is hemera genethlion toutestin epiphanion, which translates to “Christ’s Birthday; that is, His Epiphany”
He also asserts that the Miracle of Cana occurred on the same calendar day. In a sermon delivered on December 25th 380 A.D., St. Gregory of Nazianzus referred to the day as ta theophania(“the Theophany”, an alternative name for Epiphany). He said that it is a day commemorating the holy Nativity of Christ and told his listeners that they would soon be celebrating the baptism of Christ.
Then, on Three Kings Day, he preached two more sermons, where he declared that the celebration of the birth of Christ and the visitation of the Magi had taken place and that they would now commemorate his Baptism. At this time, the celebration of the two events was being observed on separate occasions.
St. John Cassian said that even in his time (the beginning of the 5th century), the Egyptian monasteries celebrated the Nativity and Baptism together on January 6th. The Armenian Apostolic Church continues to celebrate Three Kings Day as the only commemoration of the Nativity.
How to celebrate Three Kings Day
To celebrate, all that we really have to do is prepare a large meal for our family and friends, invite them over, and enjoy the day that is in fact Three Kings Day.
You can get involved with all of the traditions that were mentioned earlier. Why not try your hand at baking a Rosca de Reyes if you have never done so before? You can find lots of recipes online for this cake, and we promise you; it’s delicious! With a sugary sauce, plenty of sweetness, and a good dose of cinnamon, this is a cake that will have you going back for second helpings. Don’t forget to follow the tradition of adding a baby Jesus doll to the cake.
Another way to celebrate Three Kings Day is by jumping into some freezing cold water. It may sound a bit random, but that’s how the event is celebrated in Prague! Every year, people take a traditional Three Kings swim in the Vltava River. You will see a lot of people wearing crowns while they jump into the cold water. There are always delicious, warm Czech snacks and mulled wine waiting for people afterward. Of course, you may want to skip the cold water and go straight for the wine. We won’t tell anyone!