Epiphany -Three Kings Day in Ecuador

Three Kings Day, or ‘Dia de los Reyes’ as it is commonly known, is celebrated in most countries around the world, uniting east and west. The beginning of this period lasts 12 days, starting on the Christmas Day, the 25th of December, and ending on Epiphany Day which is the 6th of January. This is a season characterized by gift giving, carol singing and more specifically it is a time of meditation based on one of the most influential man in history, Jesus Christ.

Three Kings Day is a Christian festival which commemorates Jesus’ birth and is accompanied by the remembrance of the three wise men or kings who, through the assistance of a bright star, arrived in Bethlehem carrying gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. This religious holiday is particularly celebrated by South American communities, including Ecuador. Although Epiphany is not a national holiday in Ecuador, it is held with high regard in the chiefly Roman Catholic country.

Like Christmas, Three Kings Day has similar traditions. For example, it is common to leave an offering such as cookies for Santa. During the celebration of Three Kings Day, the offering is made on January 5th to the three wise men named Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, in hopes of receiving their generosity. Many other traditions, rituals and symbols are also evident during this time and includes the burning of the Christmas tree. This is a particularly enjoyable tradition for children who delight in raiding the tree beforehand, an activity which is known as “Plundern”.

One of the foremost traditions of that has become a large part of Three Kings Day is the serving of the Rosca de Reyes or sweet bread. A symbolic figurine of baby Jesus is placed in the candy coated bread which resembles jewels. Families and friends come together each cutting a slice of sweet bread. By tradition, whoever gets the piece of sweet bread containing the figurine is obliged to host ‘El Dia de la Candelaria’, the official celebration which marks the end of the Christmas season. This is usually held either on February the 2nd or before.

Indeed, Epiphany is a very important religious festival on the Ecuadorian calendar. However, having said this, the holiday has become somewhat affected by commercialism. TV commercials, advertising in shops and bill boards as just a few examples of how the media has begun to influence this traditional celebration along with Christmas – even in Ecuador.