Around the holidays and in the run up to Christmas Day, many people celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, singing carols and hosting parties to celebrate the season. What is often forgotten is that the 12 days of Christmas are, technically speaking, supposed to follow the observed birthday of Jesus Christ on Dec. 25, not come before.

The true 12 days of Christmas lasts until Jan. 6, a holiday known as Three Kings Day that is topped off with the Feast of the Epiphany. On that day, according to the bible, three kings (or wise men or magi) showed up in Bethlehem after seeing a bright star above the town 12 days earlier on the day Christ was born.

Once there, the wise men presented the child with gold, frankincense and myrrh, according to legend, and the “king of the Jews” was seen by the world.

The events can be seen in Matthew 2: 1-12, reproduced below.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for out of you will come a ruler

    who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.