Now that January is here, most people are done celebrating the holidays. Well, not Hispanic families. One seasonal holiday remains – El Día de Los Reyes Magos, or Three Kings Day.
Three Kings Day is celebrated on January 6, twelve days after Christmas, the day of Jesus’s birth. It recognizes the day that the Three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the baby Jesus. The three wise men traveled a long distance and were drawn guided by the North Star, which shone bright in the night sky.
There are many customs associated with this holiday. On the eve of January 6, Hispanic children leave their shoes out expecting them to be filled with candies and treats. They also leave hay or straw in a shoebox for the wise men’s camels, similar to children leaving cookies and carrots out for Santa and his reindeer on Christmas.
In some Hispanic countries, gifts are also exchanged on this day. In addition, families cook a feast and eat a Rosca de Reyes, or King’s cake. It is a sweet bread formed in the shape of a oval and decorated with dried fruit. Inside, a small plastic figurine that represents the baby Jesus is placed, and whoever gets the piece of cake with the figurine hosts the Dia de la Candelaria, or Candlemas Day, party on February 2. Some towns will hold parades and festivals to celebrate the day as well.
Three Kings Day is an important holiday in many Latino cultures. It may not be as commercial as Christmas, but it is an important tradition that continues to be passed down from generation to generation.