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The Epiphany, Three Kings Day
and Little Christmas

Everyone knows that Christmas is celebrated on December 25th, but 12 days later, on January 6th, many Christians around the world enjoy a second Christmas celebration. Known by many names, including the Epiphany, Three Kings' Day, Little Christmas or the 12th Day of Christmas, January 6th was first celebrated as a feast day in the 4th century to commemorate Jesus' introduction in human form. Religious scholars explain that for many devout Christians, Christmas is a season rather than a day -- with festivities beginning with the Advent and concluding with the Epiphany.

Among Orthodox or Eastern Christians, January 6th is known as the Epiphany, the day in which Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan. In Western Christianity, the day commemorates the visit by the Magi, or the Three Wisemen, to the baby Jesus. To learn more about how January 6th is celebrated around the world, read on.

Three King's Day

In Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and much of Latin America, January 6th is celebrated as Three King's Day, commemorating the visit by Melchor, Gaspar and Balthazar of the baby Jesus. In Northern Europe and Germany, Drie koningen features children caroling from door to door, dressed up as the Three Kings.

In Spain and Latin America, the day is known as El Dìa de los Reyes. Children leave out their shoes the night before, much like stockings are left out on Christmas Eve. Shoes are stuffed with straw or hay for the Kings' camels; in its place, the Kings leave little ones small gifts and sweets.

Also traditional is preparing Rosca bread with a little trinket -- sometimes a baby Jesus -- baked inside. Whoever finds the prize is believed to be blessed with a fortunate year.

La Befana

In Italy, January 6th honors the legend of La Befana, who was asked to join the Three Kings on their journey. She declined, but always regretted her decision. Much like Santa Klaus, La Befana is believed to visit children on the eve of January 6th, bringing sweets and gifts to the well-behaved children -- and a lump of coal for the naughty ones. Portrayed in popular mythology as an old woman riding a broomstick, La Befana enters a home just like Santa Kluas: through the chimney!

Little Christmas/Women's Christmas

Before the widespread use of the Gregorian calendar, Christmas was actually celebrated on January 6th. Many countries, including Ireland, honor this original date by celebrating Little Christmas, known in Irish as Nollaig Bheag, on the 6th. The Irish also refer to the day as Women's Christmas, a time when men traditionally take over the household duties, giving their wives a 'day off'.

Twelfth Day of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas are considered by many to be the days leading up to December 25th. Some religious historians, however, believe these days actually represent the time between December 25th and January 6th. The conclusion of those days is celebrated with a feast on the Eve of the Twelfth Night, as popularized in the Shakespeare play. In the U.K., the yule log is burned for all twelve nights following Christmas Eve, and then, on the 6th, the Christmas tree and other decorations are taken down. In fact, it is considered bad luck to leave up the tree past the Twelfth Day.

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Add Comment
kelsey L from Louisiana, US
18:12 03/03/2011
its pretty neat i LOVE it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Kathryn from Virginia, US
19:54 01/06/2011
Growing up in Miami in the 70's 3 Kings Day was a big celebration started by the Cuban immigrants with a large parade down SW 8 Street, the center of the Cuban community. Traditionally you kept your Christmas tree up until 1/7.
mary from Illinois, US
17:33 01/06/2011
My family is from Puerto Rico, and they still celebrate Jan. 6 to this day. Thank You so much
Fullerblack from California, US
11:06 01/06/2011
May the grace, joy, love, faith, strength, wisdom, and peace of Lord Jesus be with all of God's people!!
Peter Singleton from Finland
10:34 01/06/2011
This subject was the source of much discussion in the famous Helsinki "Whiskey Bar" last night and this is a brilliant source of information as no-one was really sure why there was a National Holiday today. Superb
Teresa from New York, US
19:57 12/20/2010
I Love Christmas so much but I only hope that my whole family was together!!!!!!!! Now I just recieved a call and we are going to be TOGETHER!!!!!!!!!
Veronica from United States
19:57 11/18/2010
ive tasted Pan de Rosca before, they come in one main flavor usually although im from ecuador, i luv eatin pan de rosca
Osiris Raul Izquierdo Arroyo from Florida, US
11:41 10/17/2010
My English is not goog, but enugh to say tha this page is simply amazing. The world, and nations well ne any thing without traditions
kyris from Georgia, US
19:59 10/04/2010
i like what i read
00:18 05/03/2010
thats so cool but we all know that jesus was not born on jan. 6th only on dec. 25th.

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