Three Kings Day, also known as Little Christmas, Twelfth Night or, of course, the Feast of Epiphany, is celebrated on January 6th. Coming a dozen days after Christmas, the day is the official end of the “Twelve Days of Christmas”. In some parts of the world, this holiday is as big and important a part of the Christmas celebration as December 25th. Three Kings Day is a particularly important holiday in the Hispanic culture. Celebrating Three Kings Day can include gift-giving, special foods, and other rituals. If you’d like to celebrate the holiday with your family, here are some ideas to get you started.
- Food. The only traditional part of a Three Kings Day meal is the King’s Cake. Recipes for King’s Cake are easy to come by and there are different variations, but a King’s Cake is usually crown shaped, made with egg bread, and flavored with citrus fruits and other candied fruit. Sometimes brandy is included. Most importantly, a King’s Cake always has a small trinket of some sort hidden in the bread. Three King’s Day meals are not extravagant. Some common dishes served on that day are tamales, meat stew, pork, or ham. French families make small pastries to go with the King’s Cake.
- Gifts. Traditionally, the story is that the three kings (otherwise known as the three wise men) Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar, stop by on their camels to drop off gifts. This stems from the story of the three wise men bringing gifts to baby Jesus after learning of his birth. One tradition is for children to fill a small container, like a shoebox, with grass, and leave it underneath their bed with a list of gifts they would like to receive from the three kings. The grass is to feed the camels that the kings will ride on. When the kids go to sleep, you can empty the grass out of the boxes and replace it with their gifts from the kings.
- Other Traditions. In some families, rather than leaving a note with the shoeboxes, children attach their wish lists for the three kings to a helium filled balloon, then release the balloon into the sky. It’s also customary for some families to leave candy or cookies for the kings along with the grass for the camels. Some families in the Dominican Republic celebrate by eating sweet bread, and other families bake plastic Jesus figurines into the King’s Cake. Whoever gets the piece with the figurine is supposed to have good luck.
Three Kings Day is an interesting holiday that can be a lot of fun. If this isn’t currently a part of your after-Christmas routine, consider starting a new tradition by celebrating Three Kings Day with your family.