What Is Three Kings Day? 4 Ways to Celebrate This Year

The Christmas season actually lasts until January 6.

Some people take down their Christmas decor on Boxing Day—but the Christmas season isn't over quite yet! If you're familiar with the 12 Days of Christmas song, you might be surprised to learn that the twelve days actually start on Christmas Day, meaning Christmastime actually extends through January 6, which is known as Three Kings Day.

The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of the three kings (also known as the three wise men) Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar who traveled to Bethlehem to greet baby Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Although the birth of Jesus is celebrated on Christmas Day, the three Kings didn't actually reach him until twelve days later—which is why Three Kings Day is celebrated on the 12th day of Christmas.

This is also why it's tradition to leave your Christmas tree up through January 6—because the Christmas season doesn't end until after Three Kings Day has been celebrated.

child holding tray with freshly baked king bread for Three Kings Day celebrations
Natalia Ruedisueli / Getty Images

When Is Three Kings Day?

Three Kings Day is always on January 6. This year, Three Kings Day falls on Thursday, January 6, 2022.

How to Celebrate Three Kings Day

The holiday is primarily celebrated in Spain and Latin America, but Latino communities have shared the tradition all over the world. The holiday is observed with parades and parties as people celebrate the three kings arriving to baby Jesus. Here's how you can celebrate the holiday this year.

Set Out Snacks

The three kings rode to Bethlehem on camels, so the night before the holiday, children set out grass or other snacks for them. If you're familiar with the tradition of leaving cookies for Santa, this custom is very similar—but instead of leaving cookies and reindeer feed, families prepare snacks for the camels.

Gather With Family

For many families, Three Kings Day is as big of a celebration as Christmas Day. It's customary to gather with friends and family to celebrate, often by opening gifts, playing music, and sharing a large meal together.

Give Gifts

Typically, children give and receive gifts on Three Kings Day. In some parts of the world (primarily in Spain), children also leave their shoes by the door so the three kings will come in the night and fill their shoes with small gifts—just like on Saint Nicholas Day!

Make Sweet Bread

In Mexico especially, it's customary to make "rosca del rey", which is a sweet bread that represents the kings' crowns. It's typically made into huge long loaves at bakeries, and people come to stand in long lines to grab a slice. Similar to the King's Cake tradition at Mardi Gras, there is often a small baby figurine inside one of the slices.

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