three kings day display of three wise men
Three Kings Day is a popular holiday tradition in Spain and Latin America.

Most of us are probably breathing a sigh of relief that the holiday season has come and gone, as we pack away our Christmas trees, put away the cookies and milk, and take down the stockings that were hung by the chimney (with care!).

That is, many of us in the United States are doing all those things. While it's easy to assume to Christmas traditions are universal, not everyone around the world celebrates the holiday season the same way the United States does.

In fact, most countries have their own Christmas traditions that are wildly different! Here are some of our favorites.

Three Kings Day

For Spanish or Latin American Christians, the Christmas season isn’t over yet. The holidays go all the way through the new year and until the evening of January 5th, known as Three Kings Day. This holiday celebrates the date in which the three wise men visited Jesus.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, the three kings, Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior, came from the east, traveling twelve days to visit the King of the Jews and bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

They’re a common fixture of nativity displays the world over.

Children in Spain and Latin America get their own gifts on Three Kings Day – all they have to do is leave their shoes by the door, so the three wise men can fill them with gifts.

And just as American children leave milk and cookies for Santa, Spanish and Latin American children leave a box of hay to feed the camels the three kings will be mounted on.

And most deliciously, there’s the Rosca de Reyes, the king’s cake. Meant to represent the wise men’s crown, the Rosca de Reyes is a wreath-shaped cake decorated with candied fruit and nuts - the jewels in the crown.

For many Spanish and Latin American children, the holiday season is still in full swing. 

That got us thinking. What other traditions are out there?

Other Global Traditions

In the US, millions of children anxiously await Santa’s arrival down the chimney on Christmas Eve. But in Austria, a far more sinister force visits children: Krampus, the hairy, horned, cloven-hoofed demon. Depending on the region, Krampus might visit naughty children and give them a lump of coal, or he might go as far as sacking them and dragging them off to Hell.

Need a reprieve from Krampus? Head over to Japan, where Christmas is celebrated with a big bucket of the Colonel’s best. Thanks to a successful advertising campaign in the 1970s, Kentucky Fried Chicken is the Christmas dinner of choice in Japan, and the Colonel even trades in his classic white suit for a festive red and white Santa outfit.

If you’re not a big fan of fried chicken, you could always go to Catalonia and get yourself a Tió de Nadal - a Christmas log. Catalan children care for the Tió de Nadal (which has an adorable face) all throughout December, feeding it and clothing it so it doesn’t get cold at night, until Christmas, when they beat it with a stick to make it poop presents.

If you’re interested in a Christmas tradition that’s just as wholesome but has less defecation, head to Canada. The Canada Post will not only deliver every single letter written to Santa, but ensure that every child who sends a letter to Santa will get one back too. Santa’s address? North Pole, H0H 0H0, Canada

This holiday season, it’s important to remember that not everyone celebrates the same way - and that’s perfectly wonderful. So whether you tipped back some eggnog by the fire, beat the Christmas log, or ate a big bucket of fried chicken, be considerate and kind to your neighbors. ‘Tis the season!

27 comments

  1. Linda Salavarria's Avatar Linda Salavarria

    My father was from Ecuador and my mother is American of Italian heritage. We always keep our Christmas decorations up until January 6th which is little Christmas or 3 king's day. This is a very Latino and European tradition.

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    The reference to gold, frankincense, and myrrh, is seen by many to be partly in error with regards to the reference to “gold”. Gold would be if no use to a pregnant mother. It’s fairly common knowledge that frankincense and myrrh have great properties for those giving birth, and so is “goldenrod” a well known diuretic to help patients after giving birth back in the day. Just sayin’, for my good friend Carl, who might be interested in this being as he’s possibly into herbal remedies being Pagan.

    🦁❤️

    1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      Most Christians don't know this concept of a manger didn't start until the 11th or 12th century when a priest got the idea of a manger scene. Every year some priest embellishes the story to make to better and more entertaining. Church officials realized the better the story got, the more money they would bring in.

      1. Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson's Avatar Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson

        As I understand it, the Nativity did not become important in Church Lore until the 4th century.

        My wife was raised Greek Orthodox. As I understand her family's traditions, 3 Kings Day is their gifting day, too.

        1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

          Google search, St. Francis of Assisi, who is credited with staging the first nativity scene in 1223 in a cave in Italy. He had to get permission from the Pope. The reason the Eastern Orthodox celebrate latter is because they make the lost day adjustment to their calendar until after World War I. In the west we updated our calendar in 1752. Simply put the Gregorian calendar accounted more accurately for leap years, it was 11 days ahead of the Julian calendar. In the west those 10 days were lost in 1752, which caused riots. They are continuing to celebrate the "original" date. The man who changed everyone's was born on Christmas Day. I'm talking about Isaac Newton of course. But with the calendar shift, his birthday was shifted too.

    2. Rev Ned's Avatar Rev Ned

      My mother told me of a 1930s Christmas Eve Pageant at a Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. A 6 year old student from her Sunday School class recited his line, “and they came bearing gifts, gold, Frankenstein and myrrh.”

      1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

        That is so funny Ned. Perhaps the Christians got it wrong and the mythical birth perhaps was around the time of Halloween 😜

        🦁❤️

    3. David Arthur Lewis's Avatar David Arthur Lewis

      Don't you think they could have got a hotel room if they had some gold? Maybe hired a midwife? Maybe got some food, some hay for the donkey? Gold of no use??? I call BS.

      1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

        That’s a very good point David, the gold would have come in very handy getting a top quality hotel in Bethlehem, and some top quality hay for the donkey. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. Did I miss seeing what they did with the gold when I read the Bible? They possibly distributed most of it to the poor, or to other virgins giving birth. 🤷

        🦁❤️

    4. Robert Wilson's Avatar Robert Wilson

      Lionhearted.

      You say the legend Carl Carl

      Lionhearted. Happy new year and god bless

      Rev Robert Wilson

    5. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      I am into herbs Lionheart, and am big on proper nutrition, and nutritional supplements, which I take everyday, which could have something to do with why I haven't been sick in years, not even with a cold. It's been twenty two years since I had the flu, and sixteen years before that, even though I've never had a flu shot. I prefer treating myself with natural substances. Frankencense and myrrh do have beneficial properties, but I don't care much for the smell. My favorite incense is nag Champa, but ofcourse we must use different things for different effects. Although I do agree that a woman who just gave birth wouldn't benefit from gold, it definitely would benefit the Christ family, who didn't seem well off financially, and could have rented them something better than a manger. So I'd imagine they very much appreciated that gift.

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    In the US we have an annual tradition. When Christmas is over and the tree decorations have been removed we take the tree into our back yard standing it up as if we were going to decorate it. Just after it gets dark, we light the tree on fire and watch as it burns. In less than 30 seconds the flames shoot 20 - 30 feet in the air. In less than five minutes the fire is out. We stated doing this to celebrate that Christmas is over. The other reason we started doing this is to show how flammable Christmas trees are. My kids love it. And look forward to burning the tree every year.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      That sounds like a lot of fun, Douglas. Too bad I can't do that with the artificial tree I put outside my door for the holidays, or the lighted ceramic tree I keep on my coffee table. However, you've tempted me to get a real tree next year, and there's a large parking lot outside of the building I live in, where it would be safe to burn it, if my good neighbors don't object. Thanks for the idea!

      1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

        Give it a try, it's a great tradition. Some years we go around "stealing" the neighbor's tress they set out for recycling. The kids love it more than Christmas.

        Just be very carful when you do it. By the end of Christmas the trees are dry and have lots of sap. Stand the tree upright, and lit it at the bottom. It will start slow, and within a few seconds the entire tree will be on fire with flames 20 - 30 feet in the air. Then it will be over. Make sure you do it in an open area with no trees overhead that might catch fire. The kids love it. It's like fireworks for them. Great way to celebrate the end of the all of the Christmas BS.

  1. David Arthur Lewis's Avatar David Arthur Lewis

    You folks at the Monastery really ought to try READING the Bible before you start spouting nonsense about its contents. The Gospel of Matthew makes no mention of “three kings”. It says “wise men from east of Jerusalem” which could mean hermits from the Wadi Rum or mandarins from China for all we know. Matthew does not say how many wise men either. It could have been 2 or 200, but obviously there were enough of them to alert King Herod to a serious threat to the throne. Herod was not the legitimate king, but a puppet of Rome who was not even really Jewish but Samaritan. That’s why he freaked out and slaughtered the Innocents, afraid of a competitor. But my point is that the Monastery is mistaken when they claim the Three Kings story is part of the Bible. It is an apocryphal medieval era add-on. Writers,especially those posing as experts on religion, should do their research before publishing.

    The part about gold, frankincense, and myrrh, however, is biblical. They were the three most valuable commodities at the time, and that is a significant clue as to the importance of a legitimate king to the entire region. If old Joe had had some gold on Christmas Eve, he surely would have been able to finagle a room and a midwife. Frankincense was used to cover up the stink of unwashed bodies as well as during worship, and myrrh was necessary for purification and burial rites. All three could also be used as money.

    But I’ve always thought the most curious part of the story is that after the wise men depart, Joseph is warned “by an angel” to flee Judea. That seems like a convenient way to deflect suspicion from the wise men, who disobeyed the king, did not report back, and fled from the king’s justice. But we’re supposed to believe they didn’t warn Joseph? Yeah, right.

    In most of Christendom, Three Kings Day, Dia de los Tres Reyes, is known as the Epiphany. It is the Twelfth Day of Christmas. The Christmas Season begins on December 25th with the Nativity and ends on January 6th with the Epiphany (NOT the Fifth, Monasterians). Not all Americans follow the Santa Clause tradition of commercial Christmas ending on the 25th. That's only fun for retailers. Some of us still celebrate the entire Twelve Days of Christmas. The tree and lights stay up at my home until Orthodox Christmas on January 7th. Happy Holidays everyone!

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      I read the Bible often and tried being a Christian many years ago, David, but came to realize it wasn't for me. The only thing I ever do with the pages of that book anymore is roll joints, and have found I get a lot more out of it that way. That turns it into a burnt offering to the god Bacchus, who gets quite a good laugh out of it, not as well as a contact buzz.

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      With all that gold Joseph also could have moved far away from that crazy woman who thought God was the father of her holy bastard son, got another wive, and lived happily ever after. Considering how they never mentioned it again it probably wasn't nmuch. It could have even been an urn full of gold foil covered chocolate covered camel chips.

      1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

        Flugo, look! I made another grammatical error. I put wive instead of wife! Shame on me. I'm such a naughty boy.

  1. John Anderson's Avatar John Anderson

    To get one back before Christmas Eve (Canada Post doesn't deliver Christmas or Boxing Day), the child MUST have sent it before 10 Dec in Canada, before 1 Dec in the US, and 20 Nov overseas. Otherwise it will likely get back to the youngster late.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    The temperature was in the mid seventies here in Galveston, on Christmas day, and I made and ate a homemade pizza for my Christmas dinner.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Us half Sicilians have to sometimes make our own pizzas, you know. However, most of the time I'd prefer to eat a well doctored Totino's.

  1. William Wmj Johnson's Avatar William Wmj Johnson

    I pray that this cold weather will go away soon enough for us to be able to get out and do something like Bible studies and some sermons that I have been working on for years

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      Why do you need to "get out" to do some bible studies? You can read books of all religions if you so wish at ay time. Also, try reading why secularists have the stance that they do. I think you will find they are looking for some sort of demonstrable evidence to prove any of the worlds gods are real. As there are no gods stepping up to prove they are real, even yours, secularism will continue to grow. I too used to write sermons, and preach to the congregation, until logic and reason made its mark on me as I read the Bible. Happy New Year to you William.

      🦁♥️

      1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

        Then again Lionheart, maybe they took his bible away from him when he was admitted, and won't let me I'm proselytize on that psyche ward. I can see how people could get locked up for doing such things. Just like Jesus was locked up for starting it all. William, you can't blame me, if they nail you to a cross. All I did was say I told you so.

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      You'd be better off and safer keeping your sermons indoors William, than taking them to the streets, like a Mormon or Jehovah's Witness. There would be more of a reason for more people to think highly of you too. I know I hate it when those fools knock on my door! The only thing I like about it is watching their reactions when I tell them I'm content in my faith, and my religion is Wicca.

  1. Anthony Young's Avatar Anthony Young

    Poop Francis is FAKE. Catholicism is Satan's church. No one ever really paid attention to the those churches. Why is poop Francis church above satans house? No one knows. Why you think Jesus has team Christianity, why is it only Christians that are being attacked and not all the other "godly" categories under the same consequences? No one can answer that for me. Now I understand why Elohim said I am the first to believe. Imagine God being pissed at the ones who worship another God that isn't him. And you don't even realize it. Fwm

  1. Linda Salavarria's Avatar Linda Salavarria

    My father was from Ecuador and my mother is American of Italian heritage. We always keep our Christmas decorations up until January 6th which is little Christmas or 3 king's day. This is a very Latino and European tradition.

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