Are your Christmas decorations still up? If so, don’t fret. For many traditions around the world, the season doesn’t end until the feast of the Epiphany and the celebrations that follow. The holiday marks the day the three kings, or magi, visited baby Jesus, bringing gifts and declaring him God.
The Epiphany is typically celebrated on Jan. 6 or the first Sunday after Jan. 2, and marks the 12th day of Christmas. But many Orthodox Christian cultures as well as some European and South American cultures observe it well into January and up until Feb. 2. Celebrated with parades, parties, feasts and gifts for children, the day is often a more prominent holiday than Christmas itself. So, if you haven’t put away your jingle bells, consider yourself worldly.
The Baraibar family of Twisp (Inaki, Kelly, Sophia, Marcella and Francesca) recently returned from visiting relatives in Navarre, Spain, in the Basque region where the holiday is referred to as Three Kings Days and proved to be a highlight of their voyage. When the Baraibars were planning their trip to Spain, their relatives insisted they must stay for Three Kings Days. Other than watching episodes of “Dora the Explorer,” a children’s cartoon that pays reference to the holiday, the three Baraibar girls (ages 15-9) had no context of what to expect.
They were delighted to have stayed beyond the New Year and experience what turned out to be an incredible show. The two-day celebration included spectacular parades, music, fireworks, light shows, food, drinks and gifts.
In San Sebastian, a port town located on the Bay of Biscay, the Baraibar family was greeted by the Three Kings who arrived via boat. Once on land, the three magi, Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior, traveled through the streets of the city on elaborate floats, followed by their entourage who dressed in similar colors.
In the San Sebastian, the tradition holds that each child chooses a favorite king and follows him around, calling his name. The kings interacted with kids, bestowing them with words of encouragement and blessings. For the Baraibars, new to the tradition, they were a bit too timid to get face time with any of the kings, but did get close enough for some photos and able to absorb the excitement from the crowds.
According to Kelly Baraibar, the Kings deliver a similar message to the children as Santa Claus: “Be kind to your family and others, and go to sleep early otherwise there will be coal in your shoes when you wake up, instead of candy.”
Kelly admitted they were unprepared to give their own daughters candy in their shoes the evening of the Epiphany, having been caught up in the celebration to find shops were all closed.
During their three weeks in Spain, the Baraibars were struck by the pace of life that emphasizes slow food and intimate conversations, time for family, and more holidays off. The Spanish culture observes a siesta every day from 1-4 p.m. where shops close for lunch and reopen until 9 p.m., dinner time. They quickly got used to the rhythm, cherishing the late nights and special family time. Inaki’s father recently moved back to Spain to age in his home country after a lifetime in the United States where he raised his own family in Oregon.