Ever wonder why we sing, “The 12 Days of Christmas”? Because it was 12 days after the birth of Christ that the wise men paid him a visit. It is also the time that the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist is celebrated. Epiphany is ‘an experience of a sudden and striking realization,’ so it makes sense that on that day, there was the realization that Christ is the Son of God. It is among the church’s oldest and most important days!
While mostly celebrated by Catholic and Orthadox Christians (and to them it is as important as Christmas day), it has become more popular because of the traditions around it. Traditions meaning CAKE! Also known as ‘Three Kings Day’, it is a custom in various places around the world from France to Spain and even New Orleans to celebrate with a ‘King Cake.’ While the recipe is different depending on the country, they are famous for including a figurine resembling the Christ Child inside. Whoever gets the slice that includes the figurine will have good luck all year.
Want to order your own King Cake and start a new tradition? We got you covered!
Here are other ways Epiphany is celebrated around the world:
New Orleans - USA
Epiphany is the launch of carnival season. It is kicked off with the Joan of Arc parade that marches through the Quarter. This is followed by the Twelfth Night Masquerade Ball. King Cake parties, parades and other balls follow in and through the Mardi Gras celebrations. These celebrations culminate in the largest parade on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday or the start of Lent.
We love this tradition! In Ireland Epiphany is also called 'Nollaig na mBean' or Women's Christmas. On this day women get the day off and men have to do the housework and cooking. Women will gather with other wives and moms for some well deserved me time and much-needed rest after catering to everyone during the holiday festivities. This tradition is very popular in Ireland and we support it be observed all over the world!
Tarpon Springs - USA
Tarpon Springs, is a cute little town on the west coast of Florida and it boasts of the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the US. Known for its history of sponge diving/collecting, it has largest Epiphany celebration in the Western Hemisphere. This celebration culminates in a brisk dive by young men in the Spring Bayou in search of a golden cross that is blessed and throw into the water by the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on 7th January, so twelve days after Christmas for them is 19th January. That is when their three day celebration of Ethiopians Timkat starts, celebrating Jesus's baptism.
Latin America and Spain
Día de Los Reyes or three Kings Day honors the 3 magi that followed the star of Bethleham and brought gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh to Jesus. Celebrated throughout Latin America and Spain, children often wait until the three kings arrival to open their presents. A sweet bread in the shape of a wreath and topped with candied fruit called the “Rosca de Reyes,” is baked and eaten during the celebration.
The day of Epiphany in Belgium is celebrated almost like Halloween in the USA. Children dress up as the three wise men and go from door to door singing songs and people give them money or candy, like Trick or Treating.
Bouna Befana is the italian matriarch that gave the three wise man a place to stay on their way to Bethlehem. Legend has it she was such a good housekeeper she stayed to clean her house after the wise men invited her to join them. She soon regretted that decision and chased after them. Unable to find them and deliver a gift to the baby Jesus she then filled the stockings of the good children of italy with treats and gifts! Bad children received coal or sticks. Italians celebrate the “Arriva la Befana” coinciding with epiphany throughout the country wishing each other “Bouna Befana.”