Thursday, December 29th, 2011
Three Kings Day: January 6
Three Kings Day (Epiphany) in Russia
While many people are undergoing the Christmas let-down that happens after the 25th, others are just gearing up for their holiday season. Christmas is just one marker on the festive path through the holidays that culminates in Three Kings Day (El Dia de los Reyes Magos also known as Epiphany). Three Kings Day is celebrated in many Christian regions around the world, including Latin America, Spain and much of Eastern Europe, and by Christian populations in places like Turkey, Syria and others.
Three Kings Day celebrates the biblical story of the Three Kings who saw a star appear on Christmas day and followed the star to Bethlehem to greet baby Jesus. The journey took 12 days to complete–making this period the traditional 12 days of Christmas–and they arrived bearing gifts. For that reason, it is traditional to give presents to children on this day.
In Puerto Rico, children place grass or hay and water under their beds on the night of January 5 for the Three Kings’ camels, and in return, receive presents, after the camels have eaten the grass. Children wake up early on January 6 (called Dia de Reyes in Puerto Rico) to check out what the Kings–Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar (or Caspar)—have left under their beds.
In many parts of Mexico, children write cards for the Three Kings with their wishes, which they leave together with their shoes by the Christmas tree on the night of January 5. Some also attach their cards to a balloon, which is released into the sky. Many children also leave out water or food for the animals. On the morning of January 6, children awaken to presents next to their shoes.
Similar to Puerto Rico and Mexico, children in Spain often wait until Three Kings Day to open gifts. Children leave polished shoes ready for the Kings’ presents before they go to bed on the eve of January 6.
In some Orthodox Christian countries, like Cyprus, priests bless a cross and throw it into the sea or river. Swimmers then race to reach the cross first. In Russia, the rivers and lakes are made holy by priests and are believed to have special healing powers. Russians make holes in the ice, often in the shape of a cross, and bathe in the freezing cold water.
The Christmas fun doesn’t have to end on the 25 as there are 12 days of Christmas left! Better yet, why not find a celebration in your community and join in the fun? January doesn’t have to be a long, cold month with nothing to look forward to.
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