Many cultures have traditions surrounding the Epiphany. In Spain and Latin America, Three Kings Day, rather than Christmas, is an occasion for gift-giving, and children set out their shoes the night before in hope of receiving a gift from the three kings. Greeks mark the day with a traditional blessing of the waters, when the ban on sailing on rough winter seas is lifted. German children sometimes carol in the streets carrying a star on a pole. And in Louisiana, Epiphany marks the beginning of the Carnival season; cakes are served with a small doll inside representing the baby Jesus.
The feast of the Epiphany (from a Greek word meaning “manifestation”) celebrates the revelation of God as a human being in Jesus Christ. It recalls the visit of the magi (sometimes referred to as kings or wise men) to the infant Jesus, related in Matthew 2:1-12, and thus it is sometimes known as Three Kings Day. Christians began to celebrate the Epiphany as early as the 4th century. Traditionally the feast falls on the 12th day of Christmas, January 6, but in the United States it is usually transferred to the second Sunday after Christmas.