ISTANBUL – Icy dips in the sea. Parades with camels, kings and crowns. Presents for homeless children and admonishments to live a better life.
All this took place Saturday as Christians around the world celebrated the holiday of Epiphany, which recalls the three kings, or magi, who reportedly followed a star to find the baby Jesus.
The date — Jan. 6 — is commonly known as "Day of the Magi" in Latin America and it's when children traditionally unwrap holiday gifts rather than on Christmas Day. It's also known as "Three Kings Day" as well as Epiphany.
Pope Francis, during a homily at Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, asked "what star we have chosen to follow in our lives?" He urged people not to make the pursuit of money, a career or success the basis for their whole life but to help those in need instead.
In Istanbul, the Greek Orthodox Christian community celebrated Epiphany with a traditional blessing in which a cross is tossed into the water and retrieved by swimmers.
Epiphany parades filled the streets of several nations, including Spain, Lithuania and Poland, where parents and children wearing paper crowns marched with performers in costume.