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Three Kings Day: How Do You Explain Epiphany to Your Kids?

Three Kings Day

Three Kings Day for kids

Now that all the presents are unwrapped, the ball has dropped and holiday decorations are put in storage for another year, life is beginning return to normal (or as normal as it can ever be).

You can almost feel the collective sigh of relief as the holiday season comes to an end. But is it really the end? For many people around the world, the holidays aren’t quite over, as today marks the celebration of Epiphany, also known as “Three Kings Day.”

Epiphany, also known as Trys Karaliai, is traditionally a Christian holiday, marking the twelfth day of the Christmas season and the celebration the revelation of Christ as the son of God. It is also often a focus on the three magi (or “wise men”) and their visit to baby Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem.

How can you explain Three Kings Day to your kids in a way that is fun and interesting? And what can your family do to celebrate the holiday of Epiphany?

If your family celebrates Christian holidays, a perfect way to teach your children about Epiphany is through the use of a nativity set. The story goes that the three kings found baby Jesus by following the guidance of a mysterious star.  You can have your kids act out the story of the three kings and place figurines of the wise men in your nativity set.

There’s no need to make a trip to the store or get out the wrapping paper again, but some families also exchange very small gifts (such as candy) to symbolize the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh that the kings gave to the baby Jesus.  You can explain to your kids that Three Kings Day is like a “little Christmas,” as it is often called by some. Another common Christian tradition to celebrate Epiphany is to do a blessing of the house and family, usually by saying a prayer over or marking the entrance to the home.

Not a Christian family? No problem. Epiphany can still be a good way to expose your kids to different beliefs and teach them about cultures and customs around the world.

In England, the tradition goes that the Yule log is left burning until Epiphany, and the ashes from the log are saved until the next Christmas.  France’s celebration is more dessert-oriented. Families sometimes make a “king cake” for Three Kings Day and hide a small prize inside. Whoever gets to the prize gets to become “king” for the day.

Mexico, parts of Latin America and Spain also often share the tradition of making a king cake for Three Kings Day or Los Tres Reyes Magos, but they put a spin on it in which the winner of the prize also must throw a party on February 2, “Candelaria Day.” A good way to make sure the holiday celebrations keep on going throughout the dark winter months!

Photo: Flickr/Phil Roeder

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