Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Europe Celebrates End of Christmas

Epiphany's Kings, Witches and Goblins

The Christmas season only really ends in Europe on Jan. 6. Traditions across the continent vary wildly -- from processions of kings and gift-bearing witches to brave souls diving into icy waters.

The Twelve Days of Christmas have finally come to an end, but in many European countries the festival of the Epiphany on Jan. 6 offers yet another chance for celebrations amid the bleak midwinter.

A national holiday in many countries, Epiphany marks the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem bearing gifts for the baby Jesus. Yet, the traditions for celebrating the end of the Christmas holidays vary greatly from country to country.

In Spain the eve of Epiphany is marked with processions featuring the Three Wise Men and other colorful characters. On Tuesday, thousands of people filled the center of the Spanish capital Madrid to watch the annual parade, which included a giant mechanical elephant. Participants threw gifts of sweets into the crowd and many children had brought along plastic bags to increase their chances of getting some loot. In Barcelona the Magi arrived by boat and were greeted by the city's mayor, while in the Basque resort of San Sebastian, the kings arrived on camels.

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Photo Gallery Europe's Epiphany Traditions:

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