What is Three Kings Day (Día de los Reyes) and how to celebrate

This year, Three Kings Day falls on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024

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The holiday season hasn't ended just yet.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Three Kings Day or Día de Los Reyes is celebrated.

What is Three Kings Day?

Three Kings Day (Día de Los Reyes) or the Feast of Epiphany in the Catholic tradition, is a holiday that commemorates the day the three wise men — Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar — arrived with gifts for baby Jesus.

When is Three Kings Day?

Three Kings Day, or Epiphany, is celebrated by Roman Catholics on Jan. 6, as the culmination of the 12 days of Christmas.

Although the birth of Jesus is celebrated on Christmas Day, according to the Bible the three kings didn't actually reach him until 12 days later, which is why Three Kings Day is celebrated on the 12th day of Christmas.

Orthodox Christian faiths celebrate Epiphany on Jan. 19.

The symbolism behind the Magi's gifts

"The Three Kings" or the "wise men" or the "Magi" followed a star to Bethlehem to show their adoration for baby Jesus.

The Bible says a bright star led the magi from the east until it stopped “over the place where the child was,” and “upon entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother” (Matthew 1:24).

They presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Gold has always represented wealth and power. It symbolized Christ's royal status as King of the Jews. Frankincense, a type of incense and perfume, represented his divinity and identity as the Son of God. Myrrh, an anointing oil and embalming fluid, referred to Jesus' mortality.

What countries celebrate Three Kings Day?

Día de Los Reyes is celebrated by Christian traditions in Spanish-speaking countries like Mexico and Spain in addition to other countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, France, Poland and by some Latinos in the United States, especially Puerto Rico.

Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans and Christians of other Anglican traditions celebrate Epiphany.

How is it celebrated?

Popular traditions during the holiday include gift-giving, large feasts and indulging in King Cake or Rosca de Reyes.

King Cake is most often associated with Mardi Gras but is also eaten in honor of Epiphany. Louisiana-style king cakes consist of a cakey bread dough twisted into a ring and decorated with icing and colored purple, green and yellow sprinkles.

Rosca de Reyes is a special bread with fruit and sugar that comes in the shape of an oval to represent a crown. Candied figs and cherries symbolize the crown jewels.

Inside both variations of cake, a baby Jesus doll is hidden.

Whoever finds the doll is believed to receive good luck but must also host a party on Candlemas (February 2nd) or host next year's celebration.

Similar to stockings at Christmas, many children leave out their shoes the night before for the wise men to leave candies and toys in. 

And like the tradition of leaving cookies and milk for Santa, children will pick grass or hay and leave water for the camels to eat and drink.

Three Kings Day parades also take place around the world from New York City to Madrid and Uruguay.

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