For many people around the world, the holiday activities and celebrations don’t end when the ball drops at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Día de Los Reyes, also known as Three Kings’ Day or the Feast of the Epiphany, is a holiday rooted in Christianity and occurs each year on the 6th of January. It’s a day of food, festivities, and gift-giving. In fact, many families—especially in Latin America and Spain—exchange gifts on Día de Los Reyes instead of Christmas Day.
To learn more about its history, common traditions, and how to host a beautifully curated and decidedly regal Día de Los Reyes party, read on.
“Three Kings” by Paperless Post.
What is Dia de Los Reyes?
Many Christians (and non-Christians, alike) are familiar with the biblical tale of the birth of Jesus. It starts with the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary and culminates in a manger in Bethlehem, a small town outside of Jerusalem. According to the story, this newborn Messiah was welcomed into the world by a number of overjoyed citizens, particularly the Three Wise Men or Magi. Guided by a bright star, these three wise men came from across the land to deliver gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the baby. It is from this tale that Día de Los Reyes (Three Kings’ Day) came to be.
So, when is Día de Los Reyes? Much like Christmas, it’s a fixed holiday that takes place every year on January 6th (which is also the twelfth day of Christmas). Celebrations are most common in Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Peru, though the actual manner of celebrating varies from country to country. Many Latin American and Spanish families celebrate this event in their own homes by setting up nativity scenes, exchanging gifts, and sharing a meal with loved ones.
What are some Día de Los Reyes traditions?
While some customs are common across the globe, other traditions are unique to each country or region. These traditions grow and evolve, just like the families and people who hold them dear.
Amongst some of the most practiced Día de Los Reyes traditions are:
Photo by Kevserin Mutfağı.
– Eating roscón de Reyes: One of the most typical menu items for Día de Los Reyes celebrations is a roscón de Reyes. This crown-shaped sweet bread, often decorated with caramelized fruits and nuts, is at the heart (and the stomach) of Día de Los Reyes culinary tradition. In many countries, you’ll find a small, plastic figurine intended to represent the baby Jesus baked into the bread itself. The party-goer who uncovers this figurine in their slice is considered to be blessed with good luck, and may even be the one put in charge of supplying the treat for next year’s celebrations.
– Attending a cabalgata: Although Día de Los Reyes is officially celebrated on January 6th, many countries kick off the celebration the night before. Traditions will vary depending on where you are in the world, but Spain is especially known for its cabalgata, which occurs on January 5th. Down the cobblestone streets of several Spanish cities and villages, you’ll encounter boisterous parades that celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings: Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltasar. It’s a family-friendly event bursting with festive music, colorful costumes, and sweet treats.
– Preparing a snack for the kings and their camels: In many countries and cultures, it’s fairly common for children to leave out cookies, milk, and carrots as sustenance for Santa Claus and his flying reindeer as they deliver presents on Christmas Eve. Similarly, children and families who partake in Día de Los Reyes will offer a bit of tasty nourishment to the gift-bearing kings and camels on the eve of the celebration so that they can fill up their stomachs before continuing on their merry way.
– Exchanging gifts: In the United States, gift exchanges occur most often on Christmas morning, but it’s not until Día de Los Reyes that many Spanish and Latin American families take part in the tradition. Toys, gadgets, and heartfelt keepsakes are typically unboxed on the morning of the 6th, given either by the Three Kings themselves or by a family member.
“Three Kings” Flyer by Paperless Post.
Party tips to help you celebrate Día de Los Reyes
Día de Los Reyes is a cause for celebration. It’s easy to put together a simple and fun party of your own. Here are a few tips to help you host a memorable and inspired event.
Craft a menu that’s fit for a king (or three)
On the day, put together a festive menu that Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltasar themselves would be proud of. Additionally, you can pull together culinary influences from regions around the world. This will give your guests a flavor-packed, international food tour without having to hop on a plane.
– To drink: Quench your guests’ thirst on a cool January day with some ponche navideño, a fruity punch that’s often consumed during the holiday season in Mexico. It’s typically served warm with plenty of fresh-cut fruit and can be prepared with or without alcohol. Why not make two batches for everyone to enjoy?
– To eat: For the main course, you could include everything from boiled shrimp and tamales to enchiladas and pozole Rojo. No matter what you choose to serve, a good variety will ensure all of your guests leave full and happy.
– For dessert: Add in a few sweet treats such as turrón, mantecados, and polvorones that are typical in many regions of Spain, and don’t forget to round out your menu with the traditional roscón (or rosca) de Reyes.
“Rosca de Reyes” by Paperless Post.
Decorate your own roscón
If your guests love to help in the kitchen, invite them to help you decorate. A particularly exciting endeavor for young ones at the party, adorning the roscón de Reyes with an assortment of dried fruit and shaved almonds is a fun way to bedazzle this crown-shaped cake in just about any way you please—not to mention a clever idea for keeping kids busy and engaged.
Prepare the sweet-bread base ahead of time by following a simple recipe combining flour, sugar, and orange zest, and set aside some time for your kitchen helpers to add “jewels” and “gems” to their heart’s content.
“Simple Crown” by Paperless Post.
DIY paper crowns
Another kid-friendly party activity that’s perfect for Día de Los Reyes is to set up a craft station for DIY paper crowns.
All you’ll need is:
— Some construction paper or cardboard (an empty cereal box would do the trick!)
–Plenty of glue and tape (to hold the crown’s shape)
Help younger party guests cut out a crown-shaped template or draw a diadem of their own. Then sit back, supervise, and sip on some ponche while the children unleash their creativity in a cloud of glitter and sparkling gemstones.
Plan out some dual-language party games
Parties are a fun way to relax and unwind, but they can also be an opportunity for learning. Since Día de Los Reyes is rooted in many Spanish-speaking cultures, why not do some Spanish speaking of your own?
Prepare a basic vocabulary list featuring animals and objects that might be found in a traditional nativity scene. Provide a cheat sheet and practice the words in a fast-paced game of Pictionary. Kids and adults alike can take part in the fun competition. Here are a few words you can use to start building your list:
— burro (donkey)
— camello (camel)
Tap your feet along to a well-curated playlist
As everyone knows, music is an essential component to just about every affair. To add a specific-to-Día de Los Reyes touch, however, be sure to include a few songs that are unique to this particular holiday.
Appease all of your guests and their taste in music by encouraging them to share their favorite seasonal songs when they RSVP to your party using an online Dia de Reyes invitation. This way, you can craft a playlist that’s filled with sounds from around the world.
Plan Your Día de Los Reyes Party With Paperless Post
Día de Los Reyes is a wonderful time to gather your loved ones together in one place. If you’re new to celebrating, it’s a great way to extend your holiday season. Now that you’re familiar with its traditions, you’re better prepared to plan your event with personal and culturally-conscious touches.