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Catholic Activity: Epiphany Cake Tradition


  • Epiphany cake
  • three beans

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Bake an Epiphany cake on the Eve of Epiphany to determine which family members dress up as the three kings the following day.

The feast of manifestation, or Epiphany, is traditionally celebrated the 12th day after Christmas, January 6th. In the dioceses of the United States this feast has been moved to the Sunday after January 6.


Epiphany is also known as "Little Christmas." As a feast it is even much older than our Christmas. On the Vigil, the eve before the feast, there comes to the table a special Epiphany cake, in which three beans are hidden — two white ones, one black one. Whoever gets a bean in his piece has to dress up next day as a Holy King. The one who got the dark bean will be the black King. (Soot from the fireplace or black shoe polish are recommended.) On Epiphany Day the three Holy Kings, with golden crowns and richly dressed in oriental splendor, are the guests of honor at the table. Afterwards the whole family tries to entertain them and they have the say of the evening. This is always an evening much looked forward to by the whole house. We have had the most fantastic-looking magi at our table. Before the three majesties leave the house again, they hand over their gifts — equivalents for gold, incense, and myrrh.

Activity Source: Around the Year with the Trapp Family by Maria Augusta Trapp, Pantheon Books Inc., New York, New York, 1955