The twelve days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day, December 25th and end on the Twelfth Night on January 5th . On January 6th, traditionally the last day of the Christmas season, is when we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings Day.
Liturgically the last day of the Christmas season is February 2 when the Virgin Mary presents Jesus to the temple.
In Mexico, Spain and other Latin countries Dia de Los Reyes is when children receive the majority of their gifts from the Three Kings rather than from Santa Claus at Christmas.
Before going to bed the children place their old shoes or a box filled with grass or hay under their bed for the camels with a wish list on top for the Three Kings. In the morning the shoes or box is filled with toys & gifts from the Three Kings.
According to legend based on scripture (Matthew 2:1-12) this day commemorates the Three Wise Men, Melchior, Gaspar and Baltazar, who followed the star to Bethlehem, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
They travel to Bethlehem, and along the way encountered King Herod, whom they tell of the birth of the new King. Herod orders them to find the baby and return to tell him where the Messiah could be found so that he may pay homage. After being warned by God in a dream that they should not return to Herod because he planned on killing the baby, they returned to their own countries another way.
The scripture does mention the three gifts but does not say how many came to visit. It was always assumed that if there were three gifts, then there were probably three people. Scholars estimate the number to be 2-12, possibly more.
Are you wondering why they make such a big deal out of when the Kings came and not when the shepherds or others visited?
It’s because the “Kings” (Wise Men or Magi) who brought gifts to the infant Jesus were the first Gentiles (non-Jews) to acknowledge Jesus as “King” and in doing so, the first to reveal that Jesus came for all people, from all nations and races. source: casaq
4 Facts about Three King’s Day In Latin America.
1. Bigger Than Santa: In much of Latin America Día de los Reyes or Día de los Reyes Magos is celebrated in particular by children who receive gifts from the three Magi. Often, this tradition is more significant than Santa Claus: children usualluy make lists of gifts they would like.
On the night of January 5th, children leave their shoes outside the door along with grass and water for the camels. The next day, children wake up to numerous gifts left by the three kings or the reyes magos.
2. Edible Wreaths: In Spain and Mexico, one of the most important elements of Día de los Reyes is the Rosca de Reyes, or the Wreath of the Kings. A large, oval-shaped cake filled with sweetened dried fruit, the Kings Cake symbolizes a crown. A small white figurine representing Baby Jesus is hidden inside the cake, commemorating the hiding of Jesus from Herod.
Whoever gets the slice with the figurine has to host a party on February 2nd or Día de la Candelabria.
3. Lima Discovered: Peru’s capital Lima was originally called Ciudad de los Reyes: legend has it that explorer Francisco Pizarro named it so because he discovered the ideal site for the city on January 6th.
4. Parades And Parties: Across Latin America and the United States, Latinos celebrate Día de Los Reyes in style with huge parades and celebrations thrown to commemorate the day. In Harlem, New York, a huge parade with giant puppets of the kings marks the day. Meanwhile in California, Disney California Adventure holds a parade. Across Latin America, people host lavish parties to celebrate the coming of the three kings.