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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The ‘How It Started’ Memes Are Filled With The Funny And Wholesome Content We All Need In 2020

Culture

The ‘How It Started’ Memes Are Filled With The Funny And Wholesome Content We All Need In 2020

@xolei3 / Twitter

It is not a lie to say that 2020 has been a year of disappointment and high-stress scenarios. We’ve had to quarantine from a virus, wildfires are destroying a lot of land, and well, everything else going on has just made things worse. Fortunately, on Twitter trend is giving everyone a chance to see that things can get better.

Let’s face it, 2020 has been a tough year for everyone but one Twitter trend is making life a little better.

We’ve all seen the “How It Started” memes taking over social media in recent weeks. The memes are both funny and inspirational with some showing some amazing glow ups and others showing the crushing reality of everyday life. We have all felt like the man crying over 2020 at some point over the last 7 months. It’s like this year just doesn’t stop.

Relationships are a big part of this meme trend.

Oof. This is painful and so many of us know this to be true. 😭 Sure, we can all blame our relationship woes on the current state of the world. However, that would just be doing a disservice to ourselves and our love lives. Most of us who are single now have been single for a very long time pre-Covid. But, hey, no one knows that you’re lying if you blame Covid.

A few wonderful people highlighted their transition into their true selves.

Stunning. Show-stopping. Magnificent. We love to see it. There is nothing better to see in this world than someone living their authentic truth. Like, go and do your thing. Slay all of the hearts you see, honey, and take no prisoners. We are all better in their world to be surrounded by people living in complete honesty.

The Lil Nas X joined in on the fun and highlighted his own meteoric rise to fame.

The “Old Town Road” singer really did make a big name for himself. Not only did his song get made into a duet and remix with every artist imaginable, he beat Mariah Carey’s record. Lil Nas X went from someone that no one knew to unseating Mariah Carey for longest time spent at No. 1 on the Billboard Charts.

There are some very clever takes on this meme.

So, like, who else feels like they are being personally attacked by this meme? College might have been years ago but these memories linger. Tequila is just one of those things that so many of use have to learn the hard way and those lessons stick with you.

Simone Biles gave us one of the most memorable glow ups of the meme challenge.

Simone Biles is one of the most legendary women to ever walk this planet. The way she was able to make herself known around the world as the best gymnast is no short feat. She is and will always be one of the best women to represent the U.S. in the Olympics.

READ: President Trump Thinks Injecting Disinfectants Could Cure COVID-19 And The Memes Are Hilarious

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It’s Time For The US To Adopt Indigenous Peoples’ Day In Place Of Columbus Day

Culture

It’s Time For The US To Adopt Indigenous Peoples’ Day In Place Of Columbus Day

Tony Anderson / Getty Images

Today is INdigenous People’s Day. While some people still try to celebrate Christopher Columbus Day, many cities across the country have replace the day with Indigenous People’s Day to honor and respect the indigenous people of this land. It is also a way to set the record straight and tell the true history of Christopher Columbus’ legacy.

Indigenous People’s Day is slowly replacing Christopher Columbus Day, as it should tbh.

For years, we have all been told about how Christopher Columbus “sailed the ocean blue” to discover America in 1492. Teachers told us that he came to the New World and helped to develop it into a place where Europeans could colonize and better the land. However, that is not the way that Native American descendants remember that violent moment in history.

The reclaimed holiday is shining a light on the resilience and plight in native communities.

The Native American communities faced untold horror and devastation when the Europeans began arriving. The French, English, and Spanish participated in decimating the Native communities through disease and war to take land that belonged to the various tribes.

“Well, if we’re truly wanted to celebrate the progress that we’ve made in this country, then Indigenous Peoples’ Day is completely fitting because we were meant to be completely either killed off or assimilated into mainstream society, and we’re still here,” Rep. Deb Haaland told Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day gives Americans a chance to learn the true history of this nation.

Native communities have known for centuries how brutal Columbus was to the First Nations people in the U.S. The colonizer used smallpox and a slew of other diseases to kill off Native Americans to take the land. It is brutal history that has long been buried and sugar-coated for school children, much like slavery in history textbooks. It is a disservice to the American people and the resilient Native American communities to continue to ignore the true brutal magnitude of Columbus.

Several states are replacing Columbus Day with holidays honoring the indigenous communities of the U.S.

Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Washington D.C. all observe a holiday for indigenous people instead of Columbus. Alabama and Oklahoma recognize both holidays.

Recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a minimal and impactful way to honor indigenous people.

It doesn’t really change anything. Instead of spending the day sleeping in and off work in honor of a colonizer, you can spend a day sleeping in and off of work in honor of indigenous people.

“Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a way to honor the people who lived and thrived on this continent before colonization,” Rep. Haaland said in a video honoring the holiday. “The celebration of this day is a long time coming. Activists, community organizers, and the indigenous community worked hard lobbying lawmakers, hosting rallies, and showing tour culture proudly wherever we go so that we could finally correct the record and recognize the real history of this country.”

READ: People On Twitter Are Dropping Real Christopher Columbus Knowledge For Indigenous Peoples Day

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