For some of us, Epiphany may seem like a minor event after all the fuss and bother of Christmas and New Year’s Day. For the Amish and some Ozark communities, it is widely celebrated. The focus, as I understand it, is the realization of Jesus’ divinity, and the day is filled with family and food. Centuries ago, Christmas was celebrated on January 6, following the Julian calendar. In 1582, that calendar was discarded in favor of a Gregorian calendar, thus the change of date. However, many Amish communities celebrate both dates. Many places where Amish people work are closed for the day because of the festivities.
2. Three Kings Day
Parts of Europe really go all out for January 6, or, as it’s called in Spain, Dia de los Reyes Magos. There, it starts with a procession on January 5, where people wear costumes and hand out sweets. Children receive gifts from the three kings that day, which makes January 6 a fun event. A yeast cake is made in the shape of a ring (see recipes in 4 and 5) where a bean and/or a figurine of a king is baked inside. Whoever finds the bean needs to pay for next year’s Three Kings Day, and the person who finds the king gets to be king for a day.
3. Women’s Christmas
In Ireland, this day is called “Women’s Christmas.” In Gaelic it’s called Nollaig na mBan. Essentially, it’s a big party for women! In Cork and Kerry this is particularly popular. Traditionally (and still today), a lot of the work of Christmas is taxing for women who do lots of cooking, baking, and cleaning in preparation. Women and girls are encouraged to go out and celebrate with their friends, aunts, sisters, mothers, etc. Restaurants and bars are big, crowded destinations.
As promised, here is a recipe for Rosca de Reyes. Don’t forget to hide the figurine and bean!
5. More cake!
Mardi Gras starts the night of January 6! This goes until Ash Wednesday. Here is a recipe for a colorful Mardi Gras Three Kings Cake. When I lived in Washington, D.C., every year I’d find a bakery that sold one. You had to get to the bakeries early because they sold out fast! French settlers brought this cake to New Orleans. Here, a coin is baked in, and whoever finds it is king or queen of Mardi Gras.