The wise men, traditionally known as Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar - followed the star of Bethlehem to meet the baby and offered gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The gifts were symbolic of the importance of Jesus' birth, the gold representing his royal standing; frankincense his divine birth; and myrrh his mortality. During the medieval period, Christmas was celebrated for the 12 days from Christmas Eve until the Epiphany. Even up until the 19th century, January 6 was as big a celebration as Christmas Day.
According to the Daily Telegraph ....
Facts about the Feast of the Epiphany
- The three Kings (Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar) represented Europe, Arabia and Africa respectively.
- Hundreds of years ago, roast lamb was traditionally served at Epiphany in honour of Christ and the three Kings' visit.
- Whoever finds the small statue of a baby Jesus hidden inside their slice of the Rosca de reyes throws a party on Candlemas in February.
- In some European countries, children leave their shoes out the night before to be filled with gifts, while others leave straw for the three Kings' horses.
- According to Greek Orthodox Church's traditions, a priest will bless the waters by throwing a cross into it as worshippers try to retrieve it.
- In Bulgaria too, Eastern Orthodox priests throw a cross in the sea and the men dive in - competing to get to it first.
- In Venice a traditional regatta that started as a joke in the late 70s has been incorporated in the celebrations of Epiphany Day.
- In Prague, there is a traditional Three Kings swim to commemorate Epiphany Day at the Vltava River.
- In New York, El Museo del Barrio has celebrated and promoted the Three Kings' Day tradition with an annual parade for more than three decades. Thousands take part in the procession featuring camels, colourful puppets and floats.