Epiphany, also Theophany or Three Kings’ Day, is the 12th day of Christmas and an opportunity for people around the world to feast and celebrate their faith.
Observed annually on the 6th of January, Epiphany marks the end to the festive season for many Catholics.
Up until the 19th century, the Epiphany was more important than Christmas Day. It’s the day when Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist and the Magi, or Three Wise Men, came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh - guided by the star which is now represented on the top of our Christmas trees.
These days, people tend the associate the Twelfth Night with removing Christmas decorations because, according to tradition, anyone who forgets to take them down by the night before Epiphany must leave them in place all year to avoid misfortune.
Epiphany celebrations take various forms across the world.
Pope Francis will hold the Vatican’s annual Holy Mass for the Epiphany in St. Peter’s Basilica.
In the Spanish-speaking world, Epiphany is known as Dia De Los Reyes (Three Kings’ Day). Children in many parts of Italy, Latin America, Spain, Portugal and the Philippines receive their presents on Three Kings Day.
In Ireland, Catholics celebrate the day as ‘Women’s Christmas’ – where women rest from housework and cleaning and celebrate together with a special meal.
Epiphany in Poland is marked by taking chalk – along with gold, incense and amber – to be blessed at Mass.
Eastern European and Greek Orthodox priests throw a cross into water and divers compete to find it first.
In nearly every part of the world, Catholics celebrate Epiphany with a Kings Cake: a sweet cake with a small statue of a baby Jesus hidden inside. Whoever finds it throws a party on Candlemas (the 2nd of February).