While 6 January is Christmas Eve in Russia, here in Western Europe the day after twelfth night is known as Epiphany or the Day of the Three Kings. In Spain, children receive their presents on this day rather than on Christmas Day and the three wise men parade in Spanish streets in a similar way to Saint Nicholas in the Netherlands a month earlier. They may leave food out for the camels and, in Puerto Rico, children leave grass under their beds for the wise men’s animals.
Modern Britain rarely celebrates Epiphany these days, apart from the frantic scramble of the more superstitious among us to take down the Christmas celebrations by this date. However, it is still an important date in many European countries besides Spain. In Catholic parts of Germany and Austria children go from house to house carol signing and collecting money for charity. In France and Belgium the day of the kings is celebrated by the sharing of a cake. In a tradition reminiscent of the coin hidden in the British Christmas pudding, the cake contains a bean representing baby Jesus. Whoever finds the bean in their portion of cake becomes king for the day and will wear a cardboard hat. In other countries an actual figurine of Jesus will be inserted into the cake.
A similar tradition was recorded here in Glamorganshire where rings were concealed in a huge loaf or cake shared between the neighbours. Again, the recipient of the ring would be king for the day. The old British tradition of wassailing, a form of carol signing, is also traditionally celebrated on this day.
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