Three Kings parades were held at more than 600 locations across Poland on Thursday.

The annual processions, in which actors portray the Magi who traveled to Bethlehem to see the newborn Jesus, took place on Jan. 6, the Solemnity of the Epiphany.

Family News Service.
Family News Service.

Organizers believe that the annual parade, known in Polish as Orszak Trzech Króli, is typically the largest street nativity play in the world.

The motto of this year’s parades was “Today is a joyful day.” Processions were held in the capital, Warsaw, and 667 other Polish towns and cities.

Similar parades took place in Ukraine, Austria, France, England, and even countries in Africa.

Parades were reported at around 200 more locations than in 2021, when events were scaled down due to COVID-19. But the total of 668 sites was lower than before the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, when processions took place in 820 places.

According to the website of the Three Kings Parades Foundation, the first Three Kings street parade was held in Poland in 2009. It was created as a continuation of the nativity play in one of Warsaw’s schools.

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The ceremonial procession derives from the native tradition of nativity plays and caroling, but it is also modeled on the parades organized in Spain and Mexico.

Family News Service.
Family News Service.

The Polish procession consists in walking through the streets of towns and villages behind the Star of Bethlehem. The Three Kings lead the participants to the stable, where all bow down before Jesus and the Holy Family.

On the way, Christmas carols are sung, with all participants receiving a booklet of Christmas carols and colorful paper crowns.

Thanks to the feast of the Epiphany becoming a public holiday in 2011, the number of parades has grown steadily.

Three Kings Parades Foundation president Piotr Giertych described the processions as a form of street evangelization.

“The wise men from the East, studying nature, the cosmos, looking for the truth, found the Truth in the little Child,” he said.

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He explained that funds collected at this year’s event would support poor students in Nairobi, Kenya.

Procession organizers hope to fund 10 places at professional training centers for young people seeking to become car mechanics.

Family News Service.
Family News Service.

As in previous years, Pope Francis greeted participants in the processions in Poland on Thursday.

In his Angelus address at the Vatican on Jan. 6, he said: “I encourage the initiatives of evangelization that stem from the traditions of Epiphany and which, due to the current situation, use various means of communication. I recall in particular the ‘Three Kings Procession’ that takes place in Poland.”