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What is Three Kings Day? The history and meaning behind the festive tradition

This holiday is celebrated 12 days after Christmas ends, and children don't receive their gifts from Santa Claus. Instead, they get them from the three kings.
Credit: AP | Alvaro Barrientos
One of The Cabalgata Los Reyes Magos (Cavalcade of the three kings) waves to people during the Cabalgata Los Reyes Magos (Cavalcade of the three kings) during the cavalcade the day before Epiphany, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Every year on Jan.6, people around the world celebrate a day called "Three Kings Day," also known as "Epiphany."

But what exactly does this day mean? Well, it celebrates the arrival of the three kings.

And for some, this day also commemorates the baptism of Jesus, according to Vanderbilt University.

The three kings, Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar arrived in Bethlehem on this day to "worship the newborn Christ child," the Smithsonian explains.

This holiday is celebrated 12 days after Christmas ends, and children don't receive their gifts from Santa Claus. Instead, they reportedly get them from the three kings.

They leave hay and water out for the kings, instead of cookies and milk for Old Saint Nick, the university says.

Some other traditions for this holiday include family gatherings, parades and eating a round cake with dried fruit and powdered sugar with a plastic baby hidden inside called the Roscón (or Rosca) de Reyes, the Smithsonian adds.

People also reportedly bless their home and water on this day as well.

This is a festive tradition in countries like Spain, Puerto Rico, Mexico and many other Latin American countries, according to the Smithsonian.

There is a large festival and parade called Fiesta de Los Tres Reyes Mages, or the Festival of the Three Magic Kings that takes place in Spain on this day, according to Vanderbilt University.

RELATED: 116th Epiphany Celebration happening Thursday in Tarpon Springs

This week, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs will host the 116th annual Epiphany celebration. The yearly tradition is one of Tampa Bay’s most popular and unique religious events.  

On Thursday, the church will celebrate the baptism of Jesus Christ by St. John the Baptist in the River of Jordan. Observance of the epiphany began at 8 a.m. while the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy happened at 9 a.m.

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