While January can bring on post-holiday vacation blues, for many Latinos, there’s at least one more day of festivities. El Día de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day) celebrates the arrival of the Three Wise Men (Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar) in Bethlehem as they journeyed to bestow gifts to El Niño Jesus. The festivities take place on January 6th, and while it isn’t as widely observed as, say, Christmas, many of us grew up enjoying this bonus day of gift-giving and merry making. And even if you didn’t, you’re about to learn how you can celebrate as well, with a little help from La Michoacana!
History of Three Kings Day
Also known as the 12th Day of Christmas as well as the Epiphany, the holiday was first observed in Spain around the 1800s. Not long after, it spread across Latin America, including Mexico and Puerto Rico. According to the Biblical story, the Three Kings (or Wise Men) journeyed from various far-off countries following the Star of Bethlehem to come worship newborn baby Jesus. They also brought with them gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and gold.
In honor of their trek, people began giving gifts to children on this day rather than giving out gifts on Christmas a la Santa Claus. Nowadays, some families continue the tradition of saving all the gifts for Three Kings Day. Others, however, merely add it to the calendar as the final day of the holiday season and an extra day for regalitos.
How To Celebrate
You might remember hearing your mamí reminding you to put your shoes by your bed, outside your door, or maybe even by the arbolito in order to receive gifts from the Reyes Magos. That’s what children in some countries are instructed to do on the evening before Three Kings Day.
Similar to the way kids leave carrots for Santa’s reindeer to snack on, some kids are also asked to leave some hay or grass for the camels to eat, and water for them to drink. Come morning, children wake up to find small presents left inside or near their shoes. Families also take the day to celebrate together, eat and drink, perhaps even attend a Día de Reyes Magos parade or other community events.
Food and Treats For Three Kings Day
While gifts are a big part of this holiday, so is food! The main, must-have food is the Rosca de Reyes (a King Cake much like that eaten for Mardi Gras). As the tradition goes, a small plastic baby Jesus is baked into the colorful, fruit-studded cake. The person who finds it in their slices is said to have to host the following year’s gathering.
Depending on where your family hails from, you might also enjoy buñuelos and chocolate caliente, or maybe pernil and coquito. In lieu of these, you can always pick up a pack of La Michoacana Choco-Berry or Coconut Paletas for a Three Kings Day treat. Arroz con Dulce (also called Arroz con Leche) is also a popular dessert dish for Día de los Reyes Magos, and if you’re not feeling up to all that cooking, one of our Rice Pudding Paletas will definitely hit the spot. And don’t forget that the seasonal festividades always pair especially well with our Rum Raisin Rompope Bolis.
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