Unwrapping the World’s Longest Christmas Celebrations

Unwrapping the World's Longest Christmas Celebrations
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Is Christmas really over? – Unwrapping the World’s Longest Christmas Celebrations, with a peek into Puerto Rico’s unique traditions

The whirlwind of holiday festivities may have settled with the turn of the calendar, but hold on to that holiday spirit a bit longer. In many corners of the world, Christmas celebrations are just hitting their stride well into January, thanks to the Epiphany on January 6th, commemorating the three wise men’s arrival at the baby Jesus.

Join us on a journey as we explore the cultures that truly embrace the longest Christmas celebrations.

1. Spain and Latin America:
In Spain and numerous Latin American countries, the Epiphany, known as “Dia de los Reyes,” steals the spotlight. Commencing on January 5th with vibrant parades featuring the three kings, this celebration culminates in gift-giving and joyous festivities on January 6th.

2. Italy:
Over in Italy, the Epiphany is a magical affair celebrated as “La Befana.” On the night of January 5th, La Befana, a kind witch, brings gifts to children, creating a festive atmosphere that extends the joy well into the new year.

3. Philippines:
The Philippines takes Christmas fervor to new heights, starting celebrations as early as September and culminating in the Feast of the Three Kings in January. The Epiphany marks the grand finale, concluding an elaborate season of festivities.

4. Puerto Rican Three Kings’ Day and Octavitas Tradition:
Now, let’s explore Puerto Rico’s unique twist on the celebration. Three Kings’ Day, or ‘Dia de los Reyes,’ extends the festive season with vibrant parades and a charming custom. On the eve of the celebration, children gather grass, placing it in shoe boxes for the camels of the three kings—a cultural connection and an eco-friendly touch. This tradition is just one part of Puerto Rico’s rich Christmas heritage.

  • Beyond the Epiphany: Puerto Rico doesn’t bid farewell to the celebration after the Epiphany. Enter the “Octavitas,” an eight-day extravaganza starting on January 7th. This tradition takes the joy of Christmas into a new octave, blending religious and cultural elements.
  • Unique Touch of Camels in Shoe Boxes:
    As part of Puerto Rico’s rich Christmas traditions, children eagerly gather grass for the camels of the three kings. Placed in shoe boxes under their beds, it creates a cozy resting spot for the regal animals—a cultural connection and an eco-friendly touch.
  • Celebrating Heritage: Octavitas festivities include lively music, traditional dances, and the singing of aguinaldos, Puerto Rican Christmas carols. Families come together to honor their heritage and share the joy of the season.

Celebrating the Longest Christmas:

  • Extend your holiday cheer by:
    • Extending Gift-Giving: Surprise loved ones with thoughtful presents, extending the tradition into January.
    • Participating in Local Events: Attend Epiphany parades or Octavitas events to experience rich cultural traditions.
    • Preparing a Festive Meal: Whip up a celebratory dish on January 6th or 7th, incorporating traditional elements for an authentic touch.
    • Keeping the Decorations Up: Consider leaving holiday decorations up until after the Octavitas to savor the extended season.

So, if you find yourself wondering, “Is Christmas over?” remember that in some parts of the world, Christmas celebrations continue well into the new year.

Embrace the joy of the Epiphany, join Puerto Rico in the Octavitas festivities, and add a touch of whimsy with the unique tradition of camels in shoe boxes. Keep the holiday spirit alive a little while longer—after all, who can resist the allure of an extended season of merriment and goodwill? ¡Felices Octavitas! ¡Feliz Dia de los Reyes!

Unwrapping the World's Longest Christmas Celebrations
Photo courtesy of Adriana Quinones.
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Audrey Quinones
Originally from Puerto Rico, Audrey grew up in a military family moving across the southeast US. She moved to Atlanta in 2013 for work and fell in love with the city and her now husband, Jorge. Audrey has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez, an MBA from Kennesaw State University, and now works as a Quality Assurance Engineer for a global communications company. She is an advocate for infertility and pregnancy loss and co-founded and co-hosted the Infertilidad Latina podcast, a "Spanglish" podcast that provides support for the Latinx community. After battling infertility and repeated pregnancy loss for over five years, she is now a new mom of a beautiful rainbow baby boy, Matteo Makai, who was born via Surrogacy in Ukraine. She loves to write and wrote a children's book titled Now Imagine: A story for our rainbow baby to cope during the difficult time. She journals about her journey to motherhood on her page @travelingtobaby. She is a world traveler, loves culture, and languages. She speaks three languages (English, Spanish and Italian) and hopes to master Ukrainian someday. She lives by the quote, "If there is a will, there is a way."