Christians around the world are celebrating Epiphany – the day when the Three Kings of Orient arrived in Bethlehem to present Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Orthodox Christians in Bulgaria, Greece and Albania dived into freezing water to retrieve a wooden crucifix, in a tradition dating back to Byzantine times.

epiphany
Men jump into the waters of a lake in Sofia in an attempt to grab a wooden cross on Epiphany DayStoyan Nenov/Reuters
epiphany
A man kisses a wooden cross after retrieving it from the sea during Orthodox Epiphany celebrations in Thessaloniki, northern GreeceSakis Mitrolidis/AFP
epiphany
People swim in the Bosphorus to reach a wooden crucifix in IstanbulOsman Orsal/Reuters
epiphany
A man holds a wooden cross after retrieving it from the Bosphorus river's Golden Horn in IstanbulBulent Kilic/AFP
epiphany
Ation Gjoni, 22, holds a wooden cross after retrieving it from the Adriatic Sea in Durres, some 40 km from Albania's capital TiranaGent Shkullaku/AFP
epiphany
A drummer wades in the icy winter waters of the Tundzha river in the Bulgarian town of Kalofer during Epiphany Day celebrationsDimitar Dilkoff/AFP
epiphany
Bulgarian men dance in the icy waters of the Tundzha river during a celebration to commemorate Epiphany Day in the town of KaloferStoyan Nenov/Reuters
epiphany
People sit in a carriage drawn by a horse during the traditional Epiphany celebration in the village of Pietrosani, RomaniaDaniel Mihailescu/AFP
three kings
People take part in the traditional Three Kings swim in the Vltava River in Prague to commemorate Epiphany DayDavid W Cerny/Reuters
three kings
Men dressed as the three kings ride camels during the Epiphany procession at Hradcanske Square in PragueDavid W Cerny/Reuters

The Three Kings – Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar – paraded through the streets of Madrid and other Spanish cities laden with sweets and presents for children.

In Spain, Three Kings Day is considered by most people to be more important than Christmas and many Spanish children wait until January 6 to open their presents.

epiphany
One of the Three Kings waves from his float during the parade in MadridGerard Julien/AFP
epiphany
An artist suspended from balloons over Cibeles Square performs during the Three Kings parade in MadridGerard Julien/AFP
three kings
A man dressed as Balthazar, one of the three wise men, poses during the traditional Epiphany parade in Malaga, southern SpainJon Nazca/Reuters
three kings
Children wait to receive sweets and presents thrown to them from floats by actors dressed as the Three Wise Men during the traditional Epiphany parade in MalagaJon Nazca/Reuters

Pope Francis celebrated Epiphany with a solemn Mass at St Peter's Basilica. As he arrived in the papal basilica, Francis stopped to wave incense and kiss the feet of a baby Jesus statuette.

epiphany
Pope Francis kisses the statue of baby Jesus as he leads the Epiphany mass in Saint Peter's basilica at the VaticanAndrew Medichini/Reuters

Meanwhile, many parts of the world have just started celebrating Christmas. Eastern Orthodox churches, including the ancient Assyrian Church, the Greek Orthodox, Armenian and the Coptic Church, use the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar used in the west.

epiphany
Palestinian Christian girls wait for the arrival of the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem Metropolitan Theophilos before the Eastern Orthodox Christmas procession outside the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of BethlehemAmmar Awad/Reuters
epiphany
Armenian Orthodox worshippers light candles to celebrate Christmas in the Syrian Saint Sarkis Church in DamascusLouhai Beshara/AFP