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Happy Kings’ Day! Creative traditions from around the world

Today, Friday January 6th is Kings’ Day, or Day of the Epiphany. In the US, the day is almost 100% totally unheard of. But in the rest of the world, especially in Latin America, it’s an incredibly important holiday.

Kings’ Day (Spanish: Día de Reyes, Portuguese: Dia de Reis), is a traditional Christian holiday celebrated in nearly all Latin America countries, Spain, Portugal and many more. It is celebrated on January 6th, the twelth day after Christmas, when the Biblical Three Wise Men, known as Three Kings (or “Magi”), namely Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar, arrived in Jesus’ manger after traveling long distances to bring gifts to the newborn.

For most countries, this day represents the official end of Christmas celebrations, when it is finally appropriate to take down the lights and decorations. But, in other cultures Kings’ Day marks the beginning of the Christmas season – Armenia and some Scandinavian countries for example.

For many years in Spain, Mexico and Colombia, Christmas presents were traditionally given on January 6th, rather than in December, to mark the day that Kings gave their presents to Jesus. In Spain, Puerto Rico and Mexico, on the night of Jan 5th, children traditionally leave shoes on their window or porch filled with hay or grass to “feed the camels” that the Kings used for their journey, though this ritual is practiced less and less.

In Puerto Rico things get more serious with huge parades featuring men dressed as the Three Kings, giving out candy and presents to kids and playing instruments in the streets. Another prevalent tradition in Hispanic cultures is the rosca de reyes (or roscón in Spain), which is a sweet bread resembling a wreath, decorated with dried fruit. In some countries, like Mexico, families hide a figurine of baby Jesus in the bread. Whoever finds it in their slice is blessed and takes on the responsibility of throwing a party for the others on February 2nd, known as Dia de la Candelaria (sounds like a mixed blessing to the US audience).

In Brazil, it is a custom to eat pomegranate because the huge amount of seeds and juice in the fruit represents wealth. The tradition originates from Portugal, where the first three seeds sucked were traditionally placed in the drawer where money was kept, the second batch of three went into the bread drawer and the third were thrown into the fire. Why all the seed stashing? To keep money, food and warmth coming all year of course. The pomegranate tradition is still practiced in Brazil, though most people wrap three seeds in foil and keep them in their wallets.

All of us here at Voxy wish you a wonderful Kings’ Day!