Gondolieri dress up as old women in Venice as Epiphany processions take place across the world

Thousands of people have taken to the streets and waters to celebrate the Christian festival of Epiphany with many dressing up, sharing gifts and lighting candles to mark the occasion. 

January 6 commemorates the day that three Magi followed a star to meet baby Jesus in the Christmas story, giving the event its alternative name – Three Kings’ Day.

Countries around the world start celebrations on the evening before and often wear costumes to look like the Three Wise Men. Epiphany also falls on, or a day after, Twelfth Night marking the end of Christmas. 

In Venice today Gondolieri dressed up as Befana (old women) and steered their boats during a gondola regatta on the Grand Canal as part of the Befana feast celebrations for Epiphany Day.

In Italian folklore, La Befana is an imaginary old woman who is thought to bring gifts to children and fill their socks with sweets and presents on the night before Epiphany – however they receive coal if they’ve been bad. 

While in Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey people were seen jumping into rivers in a traditional challenge to retrieve a cross while in El Salvador members of the Los Historiantes group dressed up in brightly coloured King outfits.

Gondolieri dressed up as Befana (old women) steer their boats during a gondola regatta on the Grand Canal as part of feast celebrations on Epiphany Day, in Venice. In folklore La Befana is an old woman who brings gifts to children on the Epiphany Day. She visits on the eve of Epiphany to fill children's socks with candy if they were good, or a lump of coal if they were bad

Gondolieri dressed up as Befana (old women) steer their boats during a gondola regatta on the Grand Canal as part of feast celebrations on Epiphany Day, in Venice. In folklore La Befana is an old woman who brings gifts to children on the Epiphany Day. She visits on the eve of Epiphany to fill children's socks with candy if they were good, or a lump of coal if they were bad

Gondolieri dressed up as Befana (old women) steer their boats during a gondola regatta on the Grand Canal as part of feast celebrations on Epiphany Day, in Venice. In folklore La Befana is an old woman who brings gifts to children on the Epiphany Day. She visits on the eve of Epiphany to fill children’s socks with candy if they were good, or a lump of coal if they were bad

Girls wrap up from the January cold and wear white to mark the festival in Warsaw, Poland, today. A crowd of some 40,000 people joined the Epiphany procession pageant to mark the day the Three Wise Men visited Christ in Bethlehem

Girls wrap up from the January cold and wear white to mark the festival in Warsaw, Poland, today. A crowd of some 40,000 people joined the Epiphany procession pageant to mark the day the Three Wise Men visited Christ in Bethlehem

Girls wrap up from the January cold and wear white to mark the festival in Warsaw, Poland, today. A crowd of some 40,000 people joined the Epiphany procession pageant to mark the day the Three Wise Men visited Christ in Bethlehem

Lithuanians dressed as the Three Kings parade in downtown during the Epiphany Day celebrations in Vilnius, Lithuania

Lithuanians dressed as the Three Kings parade in downtown during the Epiphany Day celebrations in Vilnius, Lithuania

Lithuanians dressed as the Three Kings parade in downtown during the Epiphany Day celebrations in Vilnius, Lithuania

Archbishop of Thyteiri and Great Britain blesses parishioners and clergy of the Greek Orthodox Church of St Michael the Archangel during a service for the Feast of the Epiphany in Margate, England, today. Greek Orthodox Epiphany celebrations have been taking place in Margate since the 1960s

Archbishop of Thyteiri and Great Britain blesses parishioners and clergy of the Greek Orthodox Church of St Michael the Archangel during a service for the Feast of the Epiphany in Margate, England, today. Greek Orthodox Epiphany celebrations have been taking place in Margate since the 1960s

Archbishop of Thyteiri and Great Britain blesses parishioners and clergy of the Greek Orthodox Church of St Michael the Archangel during a service for the Feast of the Epiphany in Margate, England, today. Greek Orthodox Epiphany celebrations have been taking place in Margate since the 1960s

A woman makes a snow angel as she takes part in a running event with Tomsk winter swimmers in Russia on Epiphany Day

A woman makes a snow angel as she takes part in a running event with Tomsk winter swimmers in Russia on Epiphany Day

A woman makes a snow angel as she takes part in a running event with Tomsk winter swimmers in Russia on Epiphany Day

Bulgarian men and children perform the traditional Horo dance in the icy winter waters of the Tundzha river in the town of Kalofer, as part of Epiphany Day celebrations. As a tradition an Eastern Orthodox priest throws a cross in the river and it is believed that the one who retreives it will be healthy throughout the year as well as all those who dance in the icy waters

Bulgarian men and children perform the traditional Horo dance in the icy winter waters of the Tundzha river in the town of Kalofer, as part of Epiphany Day celebrations. As a tradition an Eastern Orthodox priest throws a cross in the river and it is believed that the one who retreives it will be healthy throughout the year as well as all those who dance in the icy waters

Bulgarian men and children perform the traditional Horo dance in the icy winter waters of the Tundzha river in the town of Kalofer, as part of Epiphany Day celebrations. As a tradition an Eastern Orthodox priest throws a cross in the river and it is believed that the one who retreives it will be healthy throughout the year as well as all those who dance in the icy waters

Greek Orthodox Michalis Vosnauidis holds the wooden cross during the traditional Epiphany Day ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey

Greek Orthodox Michalis Vosnauidis holds the wooden cross during the traditional Epiphany Day ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey

Greek Orthodox Michalis Vosnauidis holds the wooden cross during the traditional Epiphany Day ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey

Members of the traditional group of Los Historiantes gather outside a house as they participate in a walk around their neighborhood of San Antonio Abad to celebrate the Three Kings Day holiday in San Salvador, El Salvador

Members of the traditional group of Los Historiantes gather outside a house as they participate in a walk around their neighborhood of San Antonio Abad to celebrate the Three Kings Day holiday in San Salvador, El Salvador

Members of the traditional group of Los Historiantes gather outside a house as they participate in a walk around their neighborhood of San Antonio Abad to celebrate the Three Kings Day holiday in San Salvador, El Salvador

Pope Francis smiles and waves as he greets people from a window of the Apostolic Palace during his Angelus prayer at Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City, on Epiphany Day

Pope Francis smiles and waves as he greets people from a window of the Apostolic Palace during his Angelus prayer at Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City, on Epiphany Day

Pope Francis smiles and waves as he greets people from a window of the Apostolic Palace during his Angelus prayer at Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City, on Epiphany Day

The Greek Catholic Metropolitan archbishop Fulop Kocsis, pictured centre, consecrates the water of River Danube at Batthyany square in downtown Budapest, Hungary

The Greek Catholic Metropolitan archbishop Fulop Kocsis, pictured centre, consecrates the water of River Danube at Batthyany square in downtown Budapest, Hungary

The Greek Catholic Metropolitan archbishop Fulop Kocsis, pictured centre, consecrates the water of River Danube at Batthyany square in downtown Budapest, Hungary

People wait for a water blessing ceremony at Piraeus suburb, near Athens. Similar ceremonies were held across Greece on river banks, seafronts and lakes, where Orthodox priests throw a cross into the water and swimmers race to retrieve it

People wait for a water blessing ceremony at Piraeus suburb, near Athens. Similar ceremonies were held across Greece on river banks, seafronts and lakes, where Orthodox priests throw a cross into the water and swimmers race to retrieve it

People wait for a water blessing ceremony at Piraeus suburb, near Athens. Similar ceremonies were held across Greece on river banks, seafronts and lakes, where Orthodox priests throw a cross into the water and swimmers race to retrieve it

People parade through the streets wearing long white wings and masks and holding a light in the shape of a star as part of celebrations of Three Kings Day in Vilnius, Lithuania

People parade through the streets wearing long white wings and masks and holding a light in the shape of a star as part of celebrations of Three Kings Day in Vilnius, Lithuania

People parade through the streets wearing long white wings and masks and holding a light in the shape of a star as part of celebrations of Three Kings Day in Vilnius, Lithuania

Adolfo Bogarin, president of the Afro-Paraguayan cultural group Kamba Cua, center, helps carry a statue of Saint Balthasar, one of the Three Kings, as they hold a torch-lit procession to mark Epiphany in Fernando de la Mora, Paraguay, last night

Adolfo Bogarin, president of the Afro-Paraguayan cultural group Kamba Cua, center, helps carry a statue of Saint Balthasar, one of the Three Kings, as they hold a torch-lit procession to mark Epiphany in Fernando de la Mora, Paraguay, last night

Adolfo Bogarin, president of the Afro-Paraguayan cultural group Kamba Cua, center, helps carry a statue of Saint Balthasar, one of the Three Kings, as they hold a torch-lit procession to mark Epiphany in Fernando de la Mora, Paraguay, last night

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife Elke Buedenbender receive a grapevine as a present from a group of Carol Singer children dressed as Magi at the President's residency Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany, today

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife Elke Buedenbender receive a grapevine as a present from a group of Carol Singer children dressed as Magi at the President's residency Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany, today

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife Elke Buedenbender receive a grapevine as a present from a group of Carol Singer children dressed as Magi at the President’s residency Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany, today

People perform the national dance 'Horo' holding national flags in the icy waters of the river in the town of Kalofer some 150 kms from Sofia, Bulgaria, during celebrations of the Epiphany day

People perform the national dance 'Horo' holding national flags in the icy waters of the river in the town of Kalofer some 150 kms from Sofia, Bulgaria, during celebrations of the Epiphany day

People perform the national dance ‘Horo’ holding national flags in the icy waters of the river in the town of Kalofer some 150 kms from Sofia, Bulgaria, during celebrations of the Epiphany day

Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, centre, and Metropolitan Epifaniy, third right, the head of the united local Ukrainian Orthodox Church release white pigeons during the Epiphany Day ceremony in Istanbul

Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, centre, and Metropolitan Epifaniy, third right, the head of the united local Ukrainian Orthodox Church release white pigeons during the Epiphany Day ceremony in Istanbul

Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, centre, and Metropolitan Epifaniy, third right, the head of the united local Ukrainian Orthodox Church release white pigeons during the Epiphany Day ceremony in Istanbul

Swimmers wearing crowns join the traditional Three Kings Swimming in the Vltava river in Prague, Czech Republic, today where water temperatures were three degrees Celsius

Swimmers wearing crowns join the traditional Three Kings Swimming in the Vltava river in Prague, Czech Republic, today where water temperatures were three degrees Celsius

Swimmers wearing crowns join the traditional Three Kings Swimming in the Vltava river in Prague, Czech Republic, today where water temperatures were three degrees Celsius

A horse reacts after being blessed by the priest with holy water before a race held in Pietrosani, Romania. Peasants from there and surrounding villages have their horses blessed on Epiphany, considered as the end of Christmas season festivities

A horse reacts after being blessed by the priest with holy water before a race held in Pietrosani, Romania. Peasants from there and surrounding villages have their horses blessed on Epiphany, considered as the end of Christmas season festivities

A horse reacts after being blessed by the priest with holy water before a race held in Pietrosani, Romania. Peasants from there and surrounding villages have their horses blessed on Epiphany, considered as the end of Christmas season festivities

Archbishop of Thyteiri and Great Britain of the Greek Othodox Church, centre, and Bishop of Dover, left, take part in a service for the Feast of the Epiphany on January 06, 2019 in Margate, Kent

Archbishop of Thyteiri and Great Britain of the Greek Othodox Church, centre, and Bishop of Dover, left, take part in a service for the Feast of the Epiphany on January 06, 2019 in Margate, Kent

Archbishop of Thyteiri and Great Britain of the Greek Othodox Church, centre, and Bishop of Dover, left, take part in a service for the Feast of the Epiphany on January 06, 2019 in Margate, Kent

Men dressed as the Three Kings ride camels through crowds of people for a large procession in Prague, Czech Republic

Men dressed as the Three Kings ride camels through crowds of people for a large procession in Prague, Czech Republic

Men dressed as the Three Kings ride camels through crowds of people for a large procession in Prague, Czech Republic

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