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Epiphany or Three Kings Day? What do they Celebrate and Share?

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Epiphany

Its origins are in the Epiphany celebration, which is one of the oldest festivals of the Christian church

The Three Kings Day celebration in Jazmin Fargas‘ household includes family dinners, grama or grass underneath the pillow, sweets, and extra gifts from the three wise men who visited baby Jesus.

Most Latin American and Caribbean countries celebrate Three Kings Day on Jan. 6. According to the Biblical Nativity story, the three wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus on that day.

Many customs surround this holiday, such as leaving grass or hay out for the three kings in exchange for gifts. In Mexico, the holiday wouldn’t be complete without Rosca de Reyes, a large oval-shaped bread adorned with dried fruit.

What are the origins of these two holidays, how are they celebrated, and what are their common characteristics?

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Who celebrates Three Kings Day and why does it matter?

Latin American and Caribbean countries that observe this holiday include Venezuela, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, and Cuba. Many Latinx and Hispanic communities in the U.S. celebrate Three Kings Day to honor their own cultures and customs.

In the Bronx, Fernando Laspina runs El Maestro, a nonprofit educational center. Aspina said that for the Latinx community, Three Kings Day is widely known and prioritized as the “second Christmas.”

We celebrate it just as much as Christmas. It’s another chance to enjoy family, food, and gifts, which is what we enjoy most,” Laspina told USA TODAY.

Are Epiphany and Three Kings Day the same holiday?

Both yes and no. Three Kings Day has its roots in the longstanding religious holiday Epiphany.

According to Ashleigh Elser, assistant professor of religion at Hampden-Sydney College, Epiphany mostly commemorates the Magi’s visit to the infant Jesus in the Western church, while in the Eastern church, the festival commemorates Jesus’ baptism, as well as the revelation that Christ was both fully God and full man.

In some cultures and countries, Three Kings Day is also known as Epiphany. Epiphany is celebrated for days or weeks depending on the culture, whereas Three Kings Day is celebrated for just one day.

Religious groups and Christian sects observe Epiphany season from the Feast of the Epiphany through Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

Three Kings Day is somewhat complicated because it derives from Epiphany, and Epiphany celebrates all that Three Kings Day does plus more,” said Elser.

Is Epiphany the oldest Christian holiday?

Epiphany is one of the three oldest Christian festivals, along with Easter and Christmas, Elser said. Christmas began in the Eastern church, where it originally commemorated Christ’s birth.

In terms of how sacred Epiphany is thought to be, Elser said that because it’s so deeply rooted in history, it’s up there with Easter. Three Kings Day has a younger history, and Epiphany has more roots in Christianity.”

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