Culture

Día De Los Reyes Was The First Time I Allowed My S.O. To Experience My Culture

For many who regularly take part in the holiday season, Christmas traditions are strongly tied to religious beliefs and practices. The ways in which the customs around the holiday season are carried out often deeply rooted in cultural rituals and they often vary from family to family. For my Puerto Rican family, the holiday season is drawn out well past the first of January when radio stations reel back on the jingles and Mariah Carey classics. For us, the Twelve Days Of Christmas sales or songs we know of don’t relate to the days leading up to December 25, but rather the twelve days in between Christmas Day and January 6 The Epiphany, a biblical day that marks the final leg of the  Three Wise Men’s journey to deliver gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus Christ.

Día De Los Reyes has always been an especially important day for my family. The fact that “reyes” is my mother’s maiden name has only made the day a little sweeter.

Photo provided by Wandy Felicita Ortiz

A more popular holiday back on the island, my abuela and abuelo Reyes brought their traditions to the mainland with them in the 1950s.

On the evening of January 5, each member of my family from grandfather to my youngest sobrino pull out cardboard shoe and clothing boxes (all marked with our names, drawn on and decorated over the years with crayons, markers, and glitter pens) to take part in a tradition that we hold dear in our hearts. After we’ve filled the boxes with snacks like carrots, lettuce, and sometimes grass for the Three Kings’ camels to munch on as they pass through our town we stick the boxes under our beds. Finally, just as we would with Santa Claus, we write the Three Kings–Los Reyes–a handwritten note wishing them safe travels as the journey to see the baby Jesus hoping that as they did with him on that first Epiphany, they’ll leave a small gift or token of some sort under our boxes.

Dia De Los Reyes functions similarly to Christmas Eve in my family. We all wake up and check under our boxes to see if we were good enough this year to receive any gifts. We’d go to mass together, where as kids we’d hope that maybe Los Reyes stayed in town with their camels long enough that day to be at the church community center to pose for photos. We would visit family and eat pernil and arroz con gandules, dishes reserved for celebrations and holidays.

As I got older I went to mass only sometimes and stopped looking to get my photos with Los Reyes.

Photo provided by Wandy Felicita Ortiz

I never stopped checking my box for gifts though, or remembering each rey by the names older relatives taught me to write in my letters: Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar. As an adult I focused on new ways to celebrate “being a king,” as my family would say, and took on the role of expert coquito maker.

When I started dating and began wanting to bring boyfriends home for the holidays, part of my new role during the holiday season also unintentionally became one of both gatekeeper and teacher of my Puerto Rican culture. As a sophomore in college, I brought my then boyfriend home for December for the first time. In my household, Noche Buena, Christmas Day, New Years Day, New Year’s Eve, and Dia De Los Reyes were all days set aside for family, exclusively. I knew not to ask for exceptions, and in the past had willfully or grudgingly passed up holiday and New Years parties to honor the expectation of being en familia.

But in my twenties I badly started to yearn for my first New Years kiss and wanted, even more, to share part of my twelve days of Christmas with somebody who mattered to me.

My parents, on the other hand, were hesitant. Dia De Los Reyes was about Los Reyes, as in my family.

My boyfriend was someone they saw a few times a year and knew of only from phone calls, letters, texts, and video chats. Someone so unfamiliar certainly wasn’t considered family, and moreover someone who wasn’t Latino couldn’t possibly understand the sanctity of the day we’d honored so lovingly all our lives.

Most concerning of all, Dia De Los Reyes is also known among some circles as “the poor man’s Christmas,” my grandparents’ explanation being that back in the days of Jesus, being a king didn’t mean wealth like it means today. It meant that the giftschildren and observers receive in their boxes today are small, like a $10 gift card, socks, some mittens, or maybe candy. The last thing my family needed was for some guy they didn’t know to reach into an old shoebox of all things, pull out socks, and think we were cheap. With some convincing and a little grumbling, my family allowed me to write my boyfriend’s name on a box, fill it with lettuce and put it under my bed on January 5.

That night as I lay in bed, I did feel nervous knowing that I was bringing somebody into such a special part of my life that no one had ever seen before outside of my parents. Earlier in the day, I made sure to explain to him how seriously my family took our family only traditions, and how it wasn’t just about the religious holiday but the namesake that ties us to one another. I felt silly as I highlighted decorating beat-up boxes as one of my favorite traditions, something I hadn’t ever admitted out loud. Quiet and reserved, he listened to my stories but didn’t ask any questions.

In the morning, I still had my family only morning mass and our opening of gifts, but later that day my boyfriend was invited over for pasteles, coquito, and the checking of his first and only Three Kings Day box.

My parents observed with critical eyes as he went through the motions of our traditions, seeming charmed by the gifts of a hat and gloves left resting on top of torn up shreds of lettuce, proof that Los Reyes had come through our house. As he followed our lead I sat hoping that by participating in the events himself, he might better understand where my love for my culture comes from, or maybe even briefly feel the same sense of childhood joy I do on that day each year. Admittedly, it was an awkward day for everyone involved and not filled with all the magic I had hoped for. Nonetheless, I still felt proud of myself for being able to break down a barrier that had long existed between myself and not only romantic connections but a friend, too.

I wanted the opportunity to show those outside of my family the part of my identity that I hadn’t always made transparent in my daily life, even if that meant that they didn’t understand or wouldn’t “get it” at first.

Photo provided by Wandy Felicita Ortiz

Even though the person who got to take the test run of my family only traditions and I aren’t together anymore, a few years ago he broke the mold for being able to bring others into a part of my life I was using to shutting so many close to me out of.n Maybe he did think that of us, our gifts, or the day we celebrate as cheap, but after the fact I, didn’t care. In the years that have followed, what has mattered most to me has been that I could start sharing Reyes, this name that laid down the foundation to who I am before I was ever born, and all the nuances that come with it with those I want to know me better.

This Dia De Los Reyes will be one of a few Reyes family festivities that my current boyfriend will be participating in, and another year where my family pulls out his box and welcomes his extra cheer into our holidays. While he’s still learning about my roots, I’m still learning that I can take these moments and use them to bring myself closer to my culture and my loved ones.


Read: Twitter’s Latest Hashtag Fights Back Against The Normalization Of Death And Violence Against Migrant Youth

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Stuck At Home: Mamas Are Showing What They Do To Keep Their Kids Entertained While In Quarantine

Fierce

Stuck At Home: Mamas Are Showing What They Do To Keep Their Kids Entertained While In Quarantine

@tribemecrazy | Instagram

The quarantine struggle, while entirely essential, is getting real. As the summer months grow nearer and the expectations of a lively summer outdoors with friends grow dimmer, we’re all having a hard time being forced to stay at home. No doubt, parents have it particularly hard.

This is especially true considering the fact that many of them are having to not only act as teachers but also has their kids’ sole entertainers.

Recently, we asked FIERCE readers how they are keeping it together while entertaining their kids, and the answers were not only hilarious but helpful!

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We need ideas! Help! 😅

A post shared by Fierce by mitú (@fiercebymitu) on

Mostly because so many of the mamas on our page have admitted that as tough as times are, they are managing to handle their kids in stride.

Check out some of their advice tips below.

Find a movie that’s their jam and put it on loop.

“Keeping Steven universe the movie on loop….I know every line now.” – heytymari

Netflix and play

“Legos, cars, coloring, play doh, Disney plus, Netflix, blow up pool, sprinkler, long baths, mud kitchen, and cooking with our three year old. The teens can take care of themselves.” –steeringthestrugglebus

Get into the back yard

“Lots backyard projects, water activities, vinegar/baking soda potions, kinetic sand… you name it we’ve done it! Gotta keep my 4 year old busy.” –  heymijita

Make slime

“Making bath bombs and slime!!!!! Basically arts and crafts!”- this_is_my_ig_yo

Getting them to contribute to the house can be helpful.

“Teaching how to do dishes, sweeping, mopping, baking, cooking with grandparents virtually, childrens podcasts, bike riding, playing games, watching movies as a family, science experiments, making slime.”- 2boldlatinas

Getting entertainment ideas from Pinterest

“Reading, Roblox, Tie-dying, painting, playing b ball, zoom with friends, laser tag, baking, and the rest of the ideas I get from Pinterest.” – natalianaomibrand

And if all else fails Quarantine is also the perfect time to teach your kid some Salsa moves.

“Mom of a almost 3 year old boy. It’s so hard to keep him entertained but we we try with some: dancing, signing, having him “shower” his toys, draw, play dough, bike and scooter outside, have him help me cook and clean, wrestle with his dad, (lmao) etc.” – niraarin

Latinos Shared The Most Messed Up Thing They’ve Ever Done To A Sibling And Y’all Are Cruel

Culture

Latinos Shared The Most Messed Up Thing They’ve Ever Done To A Sibling And Y’all Are Cruel

Jesse / Youtube

We all know that no one knows how to get under our skin quite like our siblings. From the nasty verbal jabs to literal physical jabs, our siblings have gone all out in torturing, humiliating and traumatizing us. Of course, we love them forever, but the marks of their tricks have no doubt left physical and emotional scars.

We asked our audience on Instagram what the most messed up thing they’ve ever done to a sibling was and boy were the responses wild.

Check them out below!

Forging their adoption papers.

“Told my brother he was adopted and made some fake adoption paper work… got him good.”” br1ana21

Giving them the big chop

Yas and Hals / Youtube

“When I was about 12 my sister was 9, she had a bad habit of pulling my hair so one day when she was sleeping I decided to cut her hair.” veronicaortiz360

Dang if my sibling ever does this one to me

“When I was 12 and my brother was 13, I was SO mad that I thought about putting Nair in his hair soap, but I decided that that was too bad so instead I put clear hand soap on his toothbrush 😂” –thefaz3962

Better than the alternative…

Giving them their first scars

Pinterest.com

“Had a little ride-on car when we were little, which was my favorite. My brother liked to use it too much and ride around in it. So I offered to push him around in it (I was 5 and he was 1) but it ended up getting stuck on a crack on the sidewalk and it flipped over. He ended up getting a gash under his chin 😂 has the scar today.”- maria__clarisa

Everyone with this adoption joke…

“So many things… hit them with the vacuum cord, Made one think she was adopted and she believed it for years, you know older sibling stuff.” lillyesc

The ultimate blackmail

“When my brother was 17 and I 12, I found condoms and a thong in his room I blackmailed him for weeks until he snapped and told on himself 😂😂😂 I’m pretty sure I got in trouble for going through his stuff #dublestandard.” duhkarina

Using the Valentina on them

“My brother sleeps with his mouth open so I put some dog kibble in his mouth and then poured Valentina in with it brothers fell asleep so me and my Tia @nessasterk painted his toes, put make-up on him and sprayed perfume on his butt.”- morelia_real

Literally putting them on blast.

(@lungxinyi) | Twitter

“Put my sister @j0celyn09 in the dryer, turned it on for a few seconds and got a royal spanking but she liked it, lol.”- hi.dspnz26

And finally using the ultimate scary weapon against them.

“My brother @edlose_chaidez was bothering and teasing me so I told him to stop if not I would throw a fork at him. He didn’t stop and while he was running away I threw the fork I had at him and hit his arm. He still has a scar from it. Lol.”- yara_nely