Three Kings Day: The Multi-National Holiday Featuring King Cake

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Happy Three Kings Day to those who are celebrating! Today is a Christian feast day commemorating the visit of the Three Kings (Magi) to the birth of Christ. 

It’s tradition to enjoy “king cake” today on January 6th, either made of sweet brioche and sprinkles or puff pastry that’s filled with fruit jam or almond paste. King cakes often have a small plastic baby baked inside (representing baby Jesus), and whomever gets the hidden trinket in their slice is wished good luck!

Since 300 A.D., Three Kings Day has been celebrated around the world. The holiday celebrates the revelation of God in human-form through his son, Jesus. From Italy to Ireland, discover the unique celebrations and foods enjoyed on this holiday.

ITALY
called Epiphany Day

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Await Befana, a broomstick-riding old woman who brings gifts to children. Legend goes that Befana missed her opportunity to bring a gift to the baby Jesus with the Three Wise Men, so instead, she brings gifts to other children on January 6th!

To do: Eat antipasto with cured meats and cheese, fresh pasta, and struffoli (fried dough balls covered in honey)

 

MEXICO
called Día De Los Reyes Magos

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It is tradition that whoever gets the baby Jesus in their slice has to buy tamales for family and friends on February 2nd, a day commemorating Mary’s visit to the temple in Jerusalem 40 days after Jesus was born. It is also customary for children to receive gifts, just as Jesus received gifts from the three Magi.

To do : Drink hot chocolate and eat rosca de reyes, a cake with dried fruits and a small baby Jesus figure hidden inside.

IRELAND
called Little Christmas or “Women’s Christmas”

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To do: It’s common for women to get together and go out to eat or meet at a pub. Historically on this feast day, women rested after their cooking and hard work over the Christmas holiday.

It’s customary is to burn Christmas holly and other greenery in the fireplace, symbolizing the end of the holiday season.

 

COPTS AROUND THE WORLD
called Christmas Eve, with Christmas celebrated January 7th

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Copts are an ethno-religious group that historically inhabited the area of modern Egypt, where they were the largest Christian denomination. The US has the largest diaspora population with almost one million Coptic members.

To commemorate: A midnight mass marks the birth of Christ and ends 40 days of strict fasting (no meat or dairy). The day is also celebrated with a feast and blessing holy water.

 

GREECE
called the Phōta (“Lights”), or Theophany

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To do: Eat king’s cake called vasilopita and enjoy children singing carols

To commemorate: The Great Blessing of the Waters marks the end of the Mediterranean’s tumultuous winter seas. A cross is thrown into the water to cleanse the sea from mischievous goblins who, legend goes, torment God-fearing Christians during the holiday season.

 

The season for eating king cake goes from today, the 12th day after Christmas, until the end of Shrovetide on Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday,” marking the day before the start of Lent. This year, Mardi Grad is on Tuesday, February 28.

 

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