Three Kings Day

Three Kings Day - Monday, January 6, 2025

Religious Christian Cultural

On the twelfth day of Christmas, January 6, we celebrate Three Kings Day! Celebrated most in Spain and Latin America, but also across Europe, “El Dia de los Reyes”, as it’s called in Spanish, marks the adoration of baby Jesus by the three wise men.

From gift-giving to feasts, Christianity has always celebrated many different holidays in different forms. However, there is one holiday that tends to stand out from the rest. That holiday is Three Kings Day. So follow us on our ship into the past as we learn about Three Kings Day.

Learn about Three Kings Day

It may seem crazy to think that Santa Claus isn’t as popular in some households as he is in yours! However, in the likes of Mexico and other countries across Latin America, the three wise men are the gift bearers, leaving presents in the shoes of small children (or near to their shoes if the presents are too big!). This is known as the Epiphany, which dates back to the 4th century. Because of this, Three Kings Day is a vital holiday across Latin America. However, there is nothing stopping you from celebrating this day no matter where in the world you are.

There are a number of different traditions that are associated with Three King’s Day. The first is the act of gift-giving! Who doesn’t like receiving gifts? On the 5th of January, the Three Kings will be added to the nativity decorations in the home. Children will then leave their shoes out so that the wise men can fill them with gifts. 

Another tradition is the al fresco feast. Like any good celebration, food plays a huge role on Three Kings Day. In Latin American countries, the feast is enjoyed al fresco, which means outdoors. Traditional dishes include rice and black beans, as well as slow-cooked meat, plantains, nopales, yucca, soups, and much more! You will have plenty of delicious treats to get stuck into!

We cannot mention Three Kings Day without mention Rosca de Reyes, which is the king’s cake. This is considered the highlight of the celebrations on this date. The cake is shaped into a wreath, and it is studded with nuts and candied fruit, which represent jewels in the Magi’s crown. To really go down the traditional route, a tiny doll of baby Jesus must be hidden within the cake. If you receive this doll in your serving, it means that you need to host the Candlemas celebration in February. 

History of Three Kings Day

Also known as Epiphany or Theophany, Three Kings Day is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God in his Son as human in Jesus Christ. The observance had its origins in the eastern Christian churches and was a general celebration of the manifestation of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. It included the commemoration of his birth; the visit of the Magi, all of Jesus’ childhood events, his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, and even the miracle at the wedding at Cana in Galilee.

It seems fairly clear that the Baptism was the primary event being commemorated. The earliest reference to Epiphany as a Christian feast was in A.D. 361, by Ammianus Marcellinus. St. Epiphanius says that Epiphany(Three Kings Day) is hemera genethlion toutestin epiphanion, which translates to “Christ’s Birthday; that is, His Epiphany”

He also asserts that the Miracle of Cana occurred on the same calendar day. In a sermon delivered on December 25th 380 A.D., St. Gregory of Nazianzus referred to the day as ta theophania(“the Theophany”, an alternative name for Epiphany). He said that it is a day commemorating the holy Nativity of Christ and told his listeners that they would soon be celebrating the baptism of Christ.

Then, on Three Kings Day, he preached two more sermons, where he declared that the celebration of the birth of Christ and the visitation of the Magi had taken place and that they would now commemorate his Baptism. At this time, the celebration of the two events was being observed on separate occasions.

St. John Cassian said that even in his time (the beginning of the 5th century), the Egyptian monasteries celebrated the Nativity and Baptism together on January 6th. The Armenian Apostolic Church continues to celebrate Three Kings Day as the only commemoration of the Nativity.

How to celebrate Three Kings Day

To celebrate, all that we really have to do is prepare a large meal for our family and friends, invite them over, and enjoy the day that is in fact Three Kings Day.

You can get involved with all of the traditions that were mentioned earlier. Why not try your hand at baking a Rosca de Reyes if you have never done so before? You can find lots of recipes online for this cake, and we promise you; it’s delicious! With a sugary sauce, plenty of sweetness, and a good dose of cinnamon, this is a cake that will have you going back for second helpings. Don’t forget to follow the tradition of adding a baby Jesus doll to the cake.

Another way to celebrate Three Kings Day is by jumping into some freezing cold water. It may sound a bit random, but that’s how the event is celebrated in Prague! Every year, people take a traditional Three Kings swim in the Vltava River. You will see a lot of people wearing crowns while they jump into the cold water. There are always delicious, warm Czech snacks and mulled wine waiting for people afterward. Of course, you may want to skip the cold water and go straight for the wine. We won’t tell anyone!

History of Three Kings Day

In Mexico and many other Latin American countries, Santa Clause isn’t as popular as he is in the United States. Rather, it is the three wise men who are the bearers of gifts and leave presents in or near the shoes of small children. The holiday is also known by the name Epiphany and dates back to the 4th century. A grand feast would be held on this day to honor the occasion of Jesus’ baptism and to pay homage to the three wise men.

Many believe mysterious events preceded Jesus’ birth with perhaps the most notable being the appearance of the star in Bethlehem. This new star appeared in the evening sky just prior to the arrival of Jesus. Three wise men, or Magi as they were known, whose names were Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, traveled a far distance to pay homage to Christ. They brought with them fine gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Three Kings Day, or El Dia de Reyes, remains an important holiday for Latin America. In addition to gift-giving, there is also a culinary treat that is specific to the holiday. Known as Rosca de Reyes (King’s Cake), this holiday dessert is a symbolic pastry. Shaped in a circle to signify a king’s crown, this sweet bread holds a special surprise. Inside is a small plastic figurine representing the baby Jesus. Whoever finds this token is obligated to host an upcoming party for the occasion Dia de la Condelaria (Candlemas Day) which occurs each year on February 2.

Three Kings Day timeline


The twelfth day of Christmas

Revisions of the General Roman Calendar made the Three Kings Day date to some extent variable, assigning the celebration of the day to occur on the Sunday between January 2 and 8, though it is still more widely celebrated on January 6, 12 days after Christmas. 

385 AD


The pilgrim Egeria described a celebration in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which she called "Epiphany" that commemorated the Nativity. 

December 25, 380 AD


St. Gregory of Nazianzus referred to the day as "the Theophany", saying that the day commemorates the holy nativity of Christ.

200 AD

From Rome to Egypt

Though Three Kings Day originated in the Greek speaking eastern half of the Roman Empire, Clement of Alexandria wrote that followers of Basilides in Egypt also celebrated the day of Jesus' baptism. 

Three King's Day Traditions

On January 5, the Three Kings are added to nativity decorations and children leave their shoes out over night waiting for a visit from the wise men. When they wake up in the morning, they will find that the Kings have left them gifts inside and near their shoes.
Rosca de Reyes
King’s cake, Rosca de Reyes, is the highlight of the Three Kings Day celebrations. The cake is shaped into an open circle, or wreath, and studded with candied fruit and nuts to represent the jewels in the Magi’s crowns. The tradition of the cake requires that a tiny baby Jesus doll is hidden within the cake. Whoever receives the serving with the Baby Jesus must host February’s Candlemas celebration. 
Al fresco feast
In its core, Three Kings Day is in fact a feast day. So it makes perfect since that on this day, families enjoy a big filling meal. In Latin American countries, this feast is enjoyed al fresco, outdoors. Traditional dishes include black beans and rice with some families switching out the beans for peas or corn, soups and salads that feature yucca, nopales, and plantains, and a slow cooked meat sautéed with onions, garlic, and herbs. 

Three Kings Day FAQs

Why do we celebrated Three Kings Day?

Three Kings Day is considered the end of Christmas celebrations, representing the day the Three Wise Men gave gifts to Jesus Christ.

What do they eat on Three Kings Day?

A traditional Three Kings Day meal consists of a starter of soup or salad, a main course of picadillo meat with rice and beans (though some families exchange beans for corn or peas), and a King’s cake for dessert. 

Is Three Kings Day a religious holiday?

Three Kings Day is a religious Christian and Catholic holiday mostly celebrated in Latin America and Spain.

Three King's Day Statistics

60,000 Rosca de Reyes
California’s Northgate Gonzalez Market sells about 60,000 Rosca de Reyes each year. They start selling the original, small rosca just before Thanksgiving. About a week before Christmas, they sell the cakes in four sizes and two varieties: original and filled. One year, the fillings consisted of guava and cheese or pineapple and cajeta. 
2,065.43 meters World Record
In 2019, chefs from La Universidad Vizcaya de las Americas were awarded the Guinness record for the longest Rosca de Reyes bread in the world. Measuring at 2,065.43 meters, the lengthy traditional bread beat the previous world holder for the longest loaf, which was Switzerland. Carlos Tapia of Guinness World Records for Latin America verified the length of the bread and its new world record, noting that the previous record held by Switzerland measured in at 973.24 meters. The ring also included more than 7,000 dolls inside of the pastry. 
200,000 people annually
Every year in Mexico on the eve of Three Kings Day, a mile-long Rosca de Reyes cake is made to celebrate the holiday. More than 200,000 people gather annually in Zocalo Square to eat a piece of the King’s cake or take some home to save for later. Starting in 2018, Mexico City’s government emphasized that a portion of the delicacy shall be made without sugar so that people who need to avoid sweets are also able to partake in the tradition. 

Three Kings Day Activities

  1. Get a “Rosca de Reyes”

    The King Cake tradition is alive in New Orleans as well as across South America, and recipes to make one are found fairly easily online. Imagine a deliciously sweet cake with cinnamon and sugary sauce, with a variety of fillings depending on how decadent you’re feeling.

  2. Read the Bible

    If you’re going to celebrate a Christian festival, why not read the gospel it’s all based on. Twelfth night (Epiphany) marks the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist. The word “Epiphany" also means “manifestation" and celebrates the revelation of God in human form as Jesus Christ. Start at Matthew 2:11, and see what happens.

  3. Jump in some freezing cold water

    In Prague, there’s a traditional Three Kings swim in the Vltava River. People wear speedos, some of them wear crowns, and then they jump from a barge into the water. Afterwards they drink mulled wine and eat delicious, warming Czech snacks.

Why We Love Three Kings Day

  1. A reason for more gifts

    Christmas isn’t the end of presents! In Europe, children look forward to receiving more gifts on Three Kings Day, lining their shoes up outside their doors so the Three Kings will know to leave their gifts inside.

  2. An excuse for more eating

    Three Kings Day is celebrated in South America with a delicious dinner crowned with a “Rosca de Reyes” or King Cake for dessert. The “Rosca de Reyes” is a round cake with a plastic Jesus figurine hidden inside, and the person at the party who finds the baby Jesus has to make tamales for everyone on the Day of the Candles, which comes on February 2.

  3. It has fun traditions

    Many families leave a box of grass or hay and some water for the Three Kings’ camels (and horses and elephants) to eat. The camels usually leave a trail of hay behind that children can follow to find their gifts.

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