Magi From The East – Epiphany

Today, January 6th, is epiphany.

Epiphany or Three Kings’ Day is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God.

In Western Christianity, the feast commemorates principally the visit of the Magi to the Christ child. A group of Kings (no where in the New Testament does it say there were three!) arrived from the East, following a star across the desert and arrived in Bethlehem to visit Jesus (it was probably months after his birth).

They brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myhrr.

Gold represented his royal standing,

frankincense his divine birth and

myhrr symbolized his mortality.

Ephiphany (meaning “manifestation” in Greek) has been celebrated as a Christian feast day since the 4th century.

Epiphany around the world

1. In many countries, a traditional three kings cake is either baked or purchased at a local bakery. In France, the king cakes (galettes des rois) are made with a puff pastry, filled with almond paste and have a small figurine hidden inside.

In Spain, the roscon de reyes and in Latin America, the rosca de reyes is oval shaped to symbolize a crown. Dried and candied fruits such as figs, quince or cherries are used to decorate it and symbolize the jewels on a crown.

2. In some European countries, children leave their shoes out the night before to be filled with gifts, while others leave straw for the three Kings’ horses.

3. In the Vatican City in Rome, Italy, the Pope will hold the Vatican’s annual Holy Mass for the Epiphany in St Peter’s Basilica.

4. In Bulgaria, Eastern Orthodox priests throw a cross in the sea and the men dive into the frigid waters to get to it first.

5. In Prague, there is a traditional Three Kings swim to commemorate Epiphany Day at the Vltava River.

6. In Venice, there is a traditional annual regatta.

7. In New York city, Latino museum El Museo del Barrio holds an annual parade with thousands of colourful floats and puppets.

Note: since I have experienced many of these traditions mentioned here, please correct me if I am wrong about any of the above. Also please share any other traditions from the country you live in or your own family traditions.

Galette des roisI grew up in France, where we celebrated with the traditional gallette des rois that we would pick up at the local boulangerie. This almond puff pastry is delicious and unlike any other cake I’ve tasted. The cake is sliced up evenly among of the family members. The person who gets the small token (it used to be ceramic but now it’s plastic – probably too many lawsuits over broken teeth), then becomes king or queen for the day and wears a golden crown (that comes with the cake at the bakery). We used to love this tradition as kids. Who doesn’t love eating cake and being king or queen to the day?Tokens from childhood from the Galettes des rois

I replicated this tradition when my children were young, making golden cupcakes and a homemade crown out of construction paper which my kids decorated with stickers and glitter. I used the tokens I kept from my childhood to put inside one of the cupcakes. We would then read a picture book about the three kings arriving to worship Jesus, and place the kings prominently in the nativity scene.

This picture book is the perfect epiphany book – The Third Gift by Linda Sue Park. I wrote a blog post before Christmas on this book. I wish The Third Gift was in print when my children were young. I highly recommend it!

Happy Epiphany Day!


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