A Celebration for Generations
“The holidays are about bringing our community together,” said CEO Vanessa Calderón-Rosado during our annual Three Kings Celebration last Thursday. As many know, Latino culture encourages community celebration, and the holidays are the perfect excuse to do just that. In fact, in some Latin American countries, like Puerto Rico, the excitement of the Holidays lasts nearly two months and the largest, most important day for the children is “Día de Reyes” or “Kings’ Day” on January 6th.
Three Kings Day occurs during the Catholic feast of the Epiphany, and it honors the Three Kings that came to present gifts to baby Jesus: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They journeyed for 12 days after his birth, arriving on January 6th, hence our “Twelve Days of Christmas.” There is very little about them in the bible, but the kings, or magi, represent different origins: Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. According to the story they came to Bethlehem on camels, following the brightest star in the East. Although, in a few early Puerto Rican representations they are depicted as riding horses, as the people had never seen a camel.
The 12 day journey of the Kings is celebrated with caroling, dinners, and parties leading up to their arrival which is exactly what we did during our celebration last week. Our Three Kings event brought together more than 100 families – from residents of Villa Victoria to members of the greater Boston community – to celebrate this holiday with food, live music, a reenactment of the Three Kings arrival, and activities & presents for the little ones.
Resident Services Program Director, Cindy Lopez, explained, “Everyone in the whole organization has a role in the event.” She went on to say that this event wouldn’t be possible without the help of everyone in the organization as well as other community organizations and businesses.
Planning for the celebration begins in September with Resident Service staff and IBA’s Institutional Advancement Director, Yarice Hidalgo-Calderón, doing outreach to Toys for Joy & Toys for Tots to collect toys for about 300 children. Resident Services is in charge of the distribution and collection of the toys as well as finding food for the event; a special thank you to Upper Crust Pizzeria for their donation, we were able to provide pizza for all of those in attendance!
Our preschool staff members helped with the food & drink distribution during the event. Members of the Youth Development Program volunteered to be a part of the reenactment of the Three Kings arrival as well as took time during their holiday vacation to help sort toys for the children and distribute them during the event. IBA Arts Program Director, Elsa Mosquera, found local musician, Gilberto Rivera, to bring music to the event.
Mosquera, along with the rest of the arts staff and administrative staff, decorated for the event and helped organize activities for the children. These decorations and activities included the setup of a photobooth for children and families to have their pictures taken with the Three Kings upon their arrival and face painting with help from a “payaso” (Spanish for “clown”).
Attendees always give positive feedback on the event, many offering their praise and thanks for the event. According to Lopez, this event has been around almost as long as the organization; and in fact, “IBA is one of two organizations that holds an event like this one [in Boston], and up until the last few years, IBA was the only one.”
Leyda Garcia, the mother of a son who participates in IBA’s Afterschool Program, said it was the first time her family attended the event, “We love it, the kids are so happy and we get to see a lot of friends here.” She told us about the importance of the holiday to Spanish culture and noted how much this event meant to her and her family as she said, “Thank you to IBA for this wonderful event.”
Boston community member, John Patterson, said it was also his first time attending the event with his son, Caleb. He told us, “It’s a blessing to be able to celebrate [the holidays] with different cultures.”
Lopez explained that for many Villa Victoria Residents and their families this event has become a “generational experience.” She went on to tell us one moment that really stuck with her from this year’s celebration, “I spoke to a Grandmother who is a resident of Villa Victoria and she told me that this year she was bringing her grandchildren to get a gift and she remembers bringing her own children years ago. It shows you that [this event] continues to be something families look forward to in our community.”
The continued positive response to this event is another holiday blessing for our organization and we are proud to provide such a special celebration that has become a staple in our community. Remember, events like this one are made possible not only by our staff and volunteers, but by your donations so please consider donating here.