Well my fellow New Orleanians, yesterday was Twelfth Night (and I ate an entire King Cake… by myself.) While for most of us, that simply means that Mardi Gras season is kicking off with the Joan of Arc parade, for many people last night was Epiphany and represented a holy and beautiful religious tradition. Instead of focusing on the cake and the carnival that we are all so familiar with, I wanted to share some of the incredible Twelfth Night and Epiphany celebrations from around the world.
Dia de Reyes – Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay
In Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, Dia de Reyes celebrates the Three Wise Men (Magi) and the confirmation of Jesus as the son of God. On Twelfth Night the children leave their shoes by the door in hopes of being granted gifts from Magi. The following day, everyone eats a “Rosca de Reyes” or Epiphany cake and proceeds to take down the season’s Christmas decorations.
Timkat – Ethiopia
In Ethiopia, the people celebrate with a ritual reenactment of the Baptism of Jesus with the divine Liturgy being celebrated at a nearby body of water. Through marching, chanting, drumming, and joyously dancing, festival-goers parade the Holy Arc back to it’s home and complete the celebration with a feast.
Theophany – Greece
In Greece, Theophany is celebrated as one of the most significant events in the year. In addition to celebrating the Magi, Theophany also celebrates the birth of man and the calming of the seas. In celebration, a cross is thrown into the water where young men compete to bring it ashore where they’ll be met with good luck. The festivities are then followed by the Great Feast of Saint John the Baptist.
Pilgrimage to Al-Maghtas – Jordan
Jordanian Christians journey on a major pilgrimate to Al-Maghtas along the Jordan River. Here, huge masses and celebrations are held in the original baptism site of Jesus.
Trzech Kroli – Poland
Trzech Kroli is a massive celebration in Poland where entire communities participate in welcoming The Three Wise Men. The three members of the community who represent the Wise Men pass out candy, while the community sings carols and wears Renaissance costumes. The families then take boxes containing chalk, a gold ring, incense, and amber to be blessed at the church in memory of the gifts of the Magi.