Three Kings Day
Christmas seems like the main act, with carols, cookies, decorated trees, and even flying reindeer and a large bearded man: a festival of festivity. But as many know, the real story of Christmas derives from the bible story of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. This popular story also features “Three Kings” who hold a title to their own holiday on January 6th.
The Three Kings, also called the Magi and wise men, were prominent figures during that time. These men decided to follow a mysteriously bright star in the sky, later called the star of Bethlehem, that led them to a special newborn baby. They came prepared to greet the child, with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (quite fitting gifts for a baby if I do say so myself). The story of these kings travelling on camels and bearing gifts gained them their own holiday, Three Kings Day (or simply Kings’ Day). Although the story of the birth of Jesus is greatly taught in Christianity, Three Kings Day isn’t a huge holiday for all in the Christian church. But it is mainly Latin cultures that celebrate the holiday, each with their own traditions and customary foods.
In México people celebrate the overlooked holiday by drinking atole and champurrado (a mexican beverage that is like thick hot chocolate made with masa) and sharing a ringed pastry called La Rosca de Reyes. This pastry is adorned with a variety of dried fruits and colored toppings, inside the dough of the pastry are a few tiny babies. These babies represent Jesus Christ, and whoever receives a piece of cake with the baby inside is blessed with luck and is given the responsibility to throw a party on February 2nd. In addition, Three Kings day is another gifting opportunity. Kids will often be given cards filled with money or other small gifts.
In Puerto Rican Christianity, children are also given gifts but they also have a totally different set of traditions. Junior Daniela Fernández explains, “The night before, we would put out grass [for the camels to eat]... and then overnight the camels would come and eat the grass.” The story goes, the kings would ride their camels through the house, all the while the camels eating the grass, leaving a mess behind them. While in the house, the kings would leave presents for the household. Fernández continued, “You would receive gag gifts and socks, and also possibly some money.” Although Three Kings Day is not as large of a celebration as Christmas, it is still an important holiday in Latin American culture for gift giving and family celebrations.