How To Celebrate Three Kings Day

Three Kings Day popped on my radar the first year my son attended a Spanish-speaking immersion school. He and his preschool classmates dressed up in shiny clothes and crowns to give royal honor to Jesus. In my son’s memory, it was one of his favorite days at school. 

What is Three Kings Day? 

Three Kings Day, or Epiphany, is January 6. It is the twelfth night of Christmas and celebrates the Magi’s arrival to the toddler Jesus. According to the book of Matthew (see chapter 2), the Magi came to bring honor to the baby king after following his star. Because they brought him three gifts, the Magi are referred to as the three wise men or three kings (although their exact number is unknown). 

People all around the world celebrate Three Kings Day! In Spain, parades commemorate the Magi’s journey to see toddler Jesus. In Mexico, bakers hide a plastic baby Jesus in traditional sweet bread, called Rosca de Reyes, eaten on Epiphany. This tradition was borrowed from France, where they declare whoever finds the hidden bread treasure king or queen for the day. And in eastern Europe, people plunge into cold rivers and lakes to celebrate. 

How My Family Started Celebrating 

Even at a young age, it bothered me that the nativity scene included wise men. I knew from the Bible that the wise men didn’t arrive to worship Jesus until a couple of years after Jesus was born. But growing up, our church never celebrated or talked about Epiphany. Once Christmas was over, we took down the decorations and focused on the new year

When my son was old enough to learn about the Christmas story, we placed the wise men farther out from the nativity scene. 

“They are on their way,” I would tell him. 

Inevitably, my son would play with the wise men, and when it was time to put the Christmas decorations away, we’d search the whole house for them. (It was quite the voyage the wise men took at our home.) And although I emphasized the wise men’s journey during Christmas, we never noticed their arrival. 

Later, as my kids got older, Christmas became a frenzy of traditions packed into tight schedules. There were Christmas parties to bring gifts to and programs to attend. Since many of our close friends and family lived far away, the kids received postal packages all month. Our Christmas celebration was full of love gifts from aunts, uncles, grandparents, and family friends. We were so grateful to connect with loved ones in that way, and my kids loved all the gifts they received. But as a parent who easily gets overwhelmed, it felt like a lot all at once. I argued with my husband about our gift-gifting strategy. 

“They can get all their fun gifts from our family. We’ll just give them the things they need,” I suggested. 

But my fun-loving husband argued that our kids also needed special gifts from us. I agreed.

Enter Three Kings Day Celebration. 

Last Christmas my kids watched a PBS special about how Latin American countries celebrate the twelfth night of Christmas, and it seemed right for us. Just when we were returning to the rhythms of our regular schedule again—the gifted toys and art supplies had been played with and found new spots to live—the twelfth day of Christmas arrived. Celebrating Epiphany became a pause to look back and remember the joy of Christmas. 

The Magi had arrived. 

As I thought more about it, the arrival of the Magi was not just an opportunity for my husband and me to give our kids their special gifts. It was something I wanted to emphasize. Jesus came down to earth as a baby so that all the world’s people could be saved. The first non-Jewish people to recognize Jesus as king were the Magi. 

The word Epiphany comes from the Greek, meaning “appearance” or “manifestation.” When the Magi came to Jesus, this was the first appearance of Jesus to the world. 

Just think of it. When Jesus was born, God placed a star in the sky to acknowledge his birth. Men from a faraway land saw the star, recognized its significance, and followed it to Jesus. What a beautiful story to remind us that Jesus loves each of us and wants us all to come to him and worship. 

How to Celebrate Three Kings Day

You don’t have to jump into a frozen lake or bake an elaborate sweet bread to celebrate Three Kings Day. My husband and I give our big gift to our kids then, but you don’t even need to do that. Three Kings Day is an opportunity to extend the Christmas spirit a little and remember how Jesus came for all the world to be saved. 

Here are some simple ideas: 

  • Google “Rosca de Reyes” plus the name of your city to see if any local bakeries bake this sweet bread. Or try a recipe to make yourself. 
  • Purchase some paper crowns to wear for the day or better yet, make your own!
  • Dress up in royal clothes. 
  • Read the story of the Magi from a Children’s Bible or find it in Matthew 2
  • Talk about the importance of Jesus coming to earth so that the whole world could be saved (See Exodus 9:16, Psalm 67:2, John 3:16, Revelation 7:19) and our part in the Great Commission (Acts 1:8).
  • Draw or color a picture of the wise men. (This is a great printable by De Su Mama.) 
  • If you’d like to use this day to give one more gift, consider gifting a meaningful present. (Check out LOM’s gift guide suggestions here.) 
  • Add grass or straw to a basket the night before for the Magi’s camels who will “visit” your house. (Help it disappear during the night so your kids wake up to the illusion. You can even add camel hoof prints for an additional surprise.)
Preparing grass and water for the camels.  –Rachel L. 

Here are more ideas of how other families celebrate: 

We celebrate it at our house. We leave our tree up until then, and the kids wake up and find a gift from Los Reyes (the kings) under the tree. –Sarah E. 

We leave our nativity set up and Christmas tree set until at least Three Kings Day. It’s one present per kid! And it’s usually a small treat/candy. –Rossana J. 

We leave our tree up until then. Typically shoes are left out, and little treats are left in the shoes overnight. –Danielle W. 

My kids celebrated this last year. I enjoyed the extension of the season for them. They seem to be looking forward to it now. –Caleb S. 

As for me, I like the idea of celebrating Three Kings Day because it is removed from the bigger Christmas celebration in our home, and it reminds my family that we can keep the joy of Christmas alive in our hearts all year round. 

Does your family celebrate Three Kings Day? We’d love to hear about it! Connect with us on Facebook or Instagram!

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