Ringing in the New Year with the Three Kings

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We’re so excited to begin our anniversary year with one of our favorite community-centered events. In some Latin American countries and Spain, The Day of the Three Kings is quite the celebration. As Latinos, we make the most out of any excuse to gather and celebrate, and in Puerto Rico the Christmas Holidays are almost two months long. The excitement of Santa Claus is not nearly enough, and that is why after the 25th has come and passed Puerto Rican Children can hold on to the fact that, “Todavía faltan los reyes” (The Three Kings have yet to come.)

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.

Like any other religious feast, this one has its own original set of traditions. From elaborate parades to special dishes, The Day of the Three Kings has it all, starting with presents for the children. The night before children will leave a box of grass (food for the camels) and sometimes their shoes, outside their doors, or under their beds and the Kings will put their presents inside the box or around it. To their delight sometimes the camels get a little messy and leave a trail of grass!

As far as food goes, tradition calls for a very special dessert, so special in fact that you might find yourself biting into a little hidden figurine. El Roscón o Rosca de Reyes, is a bread-like cake, in which a little figure hides in one sweet bite. The person who finds it is responsible of throwing a party the next month, but a few families vary the tradition in their own ways: some put in several figures to split the responsibility, while for others it might mean they are in charge of making el roscón the following year. We also have roasted pork, pasteles, and coquito (our coconut and rum version of eggnog.)

The King’s twelve-day journey is celebrated with parties, caroling, and dinners leading up to January 6th. On that day there is usually more than one parade featuring the magi: Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar on their camels. The Three Kings will throw candy to the children while they make their way through the city. For the past 31 years, IBA has hosted a Three Kings Day celebration with delicious food, live parrandas, the Three Kings, and gifts for the little ones.

If you want to learn more and experience this wonderful ritual for yourself you are more than welcome to attend this Friday January 8th, from 5:30 to 8 PM at Villa Victoria Center for the Arts. For more information you can visit our event page, or RSVP in through Facebook.

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