iOS app Android app More

Epiphany 2012: Dates, Customs And History Explained (PHOTOS)


First Posted: 01/04/12 04:13 PM ET Updated: 01/05/12 04:49 PM ET

Loading Slideshow...
  • Southern Spain

    A men dressed as King Melchior meets children upon his arrival with men dressed as Kings Balthazar and Melchior, otherwise known as the three wise men or Kings to take part in an Epiphany street parade on Jan. 5, 2012 in Fuengirola, southern Spain. The parades are held each year on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany, which celebrates the gospel story of the coming of three wise men to bring gifts to the Christ child.

  • New York City

    Tall puppets representing Three Kings are led on East 106 Street during the 34th Annual Three Kings Day Parade Jan. 6, 2010 in the Spanish Harlem section of New York. The parade celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany and New York's Latino community with a procession of children, camels, puppets and performers.

  • Vatican

    Youths dressed as the three Kings greet Pope Benedict XVI as celebrates the solemnity of Mary the Mother of God mass and the 45th World Day of Peace on Jan. 1, 2012 at the Vatican basilica.

  • Budapest

    A vendor shows a carving work dubbed "Three Kings of Bethlehem Jesus Christmas," by a Hungarian artist Sandor Tisza, in Vorosmarty square in Budapest on Dec. 19, 2011 during a Christmas fair in the heart of the city few day before Christmas.

  • San Salvador

    Men dressed as the Wise Men are seen during Epiphany celebrations in a church in San Salvador on Jan. 6, 2011. Epiphany feast day is commonly celebrated throughout Latin America -- where it is known as 'Dia de los Reyes' (Day of the Kings) -- honouring the arrival of the Three Wise Men bearing gifts for the new-born Jesus, as written in the Bible.

  • Mexico City

    People eat the traditional "Rosca de Reyes" -- a large ring-shaped bread roll baked for Epiphany -- in Mexico City, on Jan. 4, 2011. The 720-metre circumference 'Rosca de Reyes', weighing 10 metric tons -- the world biggest -- was distributed among 500,000 people at Zocalo Square in Mexico City.

  • Vilnius

    People dressed as the Three Kings along with residents and city guests celebrate the Three Kings day in the old district of Vilnius, on Jan. 6, 2011.

  • Warsaw

    Volunteers dressed as Three Magi bring their gifts during the Epiphany parade through Warsaw on Jan. 6, 2011. Poland clebrates Epiphany as an official public holiday for the first time after 50 years. The Epiphany feast day celebrates the visit of the Three Kings, or Magi, to the infant Jesus.

  • Kiev

    Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate Patriarch Filaret (C) blesses the Dnieper river on Jan. 19, 2011 during Epiphany celebrations. Thousands of Orthodox believers took part in a baptism ceremony to mark Epiphany.

  • Belgrade

    Serbs lift a cross retrieved on Jan. 19, 2011 in the Danube river in Belgrade on Epiphany day. It is said that the person who grabs the cross first, thrown into the water by an Eastern Orthodox pope, will be healthy throughout the New Year.

  • Moscow

    A Russian Orthodox priest blesses water near downtown Moscow during the Orthodox Epiphany holiday service late on Jan. 18, 2011. People take part in a baptism ceremony during the traditional celebration of Epiphany, one the biggest events in the Christian Orthodox calendar.

  • New York City

    Tall puppets representing Three Kings are led on East 106 Street during the 34th Annual Three Kings Day Parade January 6, 2010 in the Spanish Harlem section of New York. The parade celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany and New York's Latino community with a procession of children, camels, puppets and performers.

  • New York City

    Three Kings portrayed by Marcus Luna (L), Marcus Sanchez (C) and Junio Alvarado (R) pose with camels after the 34th Annual Three Kings Day Parade Jan. 6, 2010 in the Spanish Harlem section of New York. The parade celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany and New York's Latino community with a procession of children, camels, puppets and performers.

  • New York City

    Three camels are led up Third Avenue during the 34th Annual Three Kings Day Parade Jan. 6, 2010 in the Spanish Harlem section of New York. The parade celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany and New York's Latino community with a procession of children, camels, puppets and performers.

  • New York City

    Camels march through a street of East Harlem during The Three Kings Day Parade, in New York, Jan. 6, 2010. The Three Kings Day Parade is an annual celebration in New York City that commemorates the most festive day of the winter season in Latin American culture. The celebration is designed to pay tribute to the day that the three kings came to visit baby Jesus.

  • New York City

    Camels march through a street of East Harlem during The Three Kings Day Parade, in New York, Jan. 6, 2010. The Three Kings Day Parade is an annual celebration in New York City that commemorates the most festive day of the winter season in Latin American culture. The celebration is designed to pay tribute to the day that the three kings came to visit baby Jesus.


The Feast of the Epiphany, marking the end of the 12 Days of Christmas, is generally observed on Friday, Jan. 6, 2012.

Epiphany -- which is variously known as Theophany, Three Kings Day and El Dia de los Tres Reyes -- is a Christian celebration of the revelation of the birth of Jesus to the wider world. This is embodied most in the story of three wise men visiting a newborn Jesus with gifts, found in the Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12.

In this story, Magi (wise men) from the east follow a star to Jerusalem, where they ask the presiding king, Herod, what he knows about a newly born "King of the Jews." This sounds like a challenge to Herod, who gathers his priests to learn where and who is this king. They relay a prophecy that Messiah will be born in Bethlehem, and Herod sends the Magi there, saying: "Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." The wise men -- Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar -- eventually find Mary and her son, Jesus, to whom they bow and worship. The Magi give Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and then return home, for a dream told them to bypass Herod.

While Roman Catholic and Protestant Christianity focuses on the story of the Magi, Eastern Christians, like the Greek Orthodox, celebrate the baptism of Jesus on Epiphany and consider the day to be more important than Christmas.

Traditionally, Epiphany is observed by blessing the home (recalling the Magi's visit to Jesus' family), blessing water (especially the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized), exchanging gifts, performing "Magi plays" (to tell the story of Jesus' childhood) and feasting, most notably on a "King Cake."

Also on HuffPost:

FOLLOW HUFFPOST RELIGION

Filed by Josh Fleet  |  Report Corrections