12 Days of Christmas? – The Twelfth Night.
Most Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th. with family gatherings and Midnight mass not to mention Santa Clause and Christmas tree. For them, December 26, is the time to dismantle the Christmas tree and go about their daily lives as usual.
For most Catholics, from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the colonies of these countries, independent countries now, like Latin American countries; the Christmas season continues with the “Twelve Days of Christmas” on January 6th when according to Matthew 2:1–12, on this day, Jesus was given his name and was introduced as Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi or “The Three Wise Men”. Bithsarea, Melchior, and Gathaspa [Melchor, Gaspar y Baltazar in Spanish] They were Magi, men of science that had come from Persia following a star. This day is known as The Epiphany or Three Kings Day.
There are many speculations as to how many Magi were there, and also the meaning of their gifts: Myrr, Frankinsence, and Gold. I have my own theory, which is that these were very expensive gifts, only the rich and royalty had access to them. Ordinary people would use “tallow” fat from animals to cook and to light their oil lamps at night and it smells really bad. Frankinsence, and Myrr will make the rooms smell like heaven and that is why royalty used them. Gold, well it is a mark of kings to have riches. Anyway, you can share your own theory.
When I was a child, Christmas was just about Midnight Mass, Posadas, Pastorales, and reflection. No presents. On Three Kings Day, children were given small gifts left on the window sills. These small gifts were mostly toys, candies, or coins. You could find people dressed like The Three Kings in Parks or Malls, and I was told they came riding a horse, a camel and an elephant, and they represented all the races of the world.
It was also the day we ate “The Kings Bread” [ Rosca de Reyes] an egg bread shaped like a crown and decorated with candied fruits that resemble precious gems. You must cut your own piece, use your own luck, because if you get the little baby doll hidden in the bread, then you must bring “Tamales” to the Feast of the Candle Mass on February 2nd. Father Barry, the pastor of our church used to call it the “Pregnant Bread”. He was from Ireland. We had to learn how to make it, because we could not find it in the United States, and today, my granddaughters love to make it and share it with friends.
In France, they eat “Galette de Roi” a bread filled with cream, and if you find the walnut hidden inside, you are the King or Queen of the day. This is a tradition brought to New Orleans by the French.
Children’s Books about The Three Kings you might want to read.