Now That Christmas Is Over, A Lot Of Latinos Are Getting Ready For Día De Reyes—Here’s What The Tradition Is All About
Now that Christmas is over, most of the world is getting ready to put the Christmas tree away and pack it up until next December arrives; not Hispanic people though. A lot of Latinos still keep the party going, and it doesn’t end until Jan. 6, when Día de Reyes, or the Epiphany, arrives bearing more gifts.
What is ‘Día de Reyes’?
On January 6, most Hispanic cultures celebrate El Dia De Reyes, or the Epiphany, in remembrance of the day when the Three Wise Men following the star to Bethlehem, arrived bearing their treasured gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for Baby Jesus.
The three kings of orient
Guided by a shining star, the three Kings of the Orient, riding a camel, a horse and an elephant, rode off into the desert to find baby Jesus. They came from different parts of the world, one was from Africa, another was European, the last was Arabic. The gifts they gave Jesus were gold: for a king, myrrh: for a man, and incense: for a god. This story represents the first time that gentiles turned to Christianity.
The tradition in Latin America
The celebration of Jan. 6 is a tradition that dates back to the evangelization of the New World in the time of the Conquistadors, and has carried on to actuality. In Mexico and other countries, it’s the Reyes Magos who deliver the toys, not Santa Claus.
Just a few days earlier, the children write their letters to the Wise Men, or to their favorite Rey Mago: Melchor, Gaspar, or Baltasar, asking for the presents they would like to receive. They tie their letter to a balloon and let the balloon float into the sky. On the eve of January 6, they’re supposed to leave their shoes by a window, with a little bit of hay for the Kings’ animals to snack on. The next morning the hay is gone, and the shoes are stuffed and surrounded with toys.
Another traditional aspect of Día de Reyes is eating Rosca with cafecito or atole. The host usually invites family and friends over to ‘cut the rosca’. Inside the bread, there are several miniature baby Jesus dolls, and the person or people who find a baby Jesus in their slice of bread, must make tamales and atole for everyone on February 2, ‘Día de la Candelaria.’
As opposed to Mexico, where children write their letters and send them to the Reyes Magos via a floating balloon, in Argentina, the little ones leave their letters inside their shoes on the eve of Jan. 6.
A different tradition in Bolivia
In this South American country, the tradition is not so much around gifts and toys. It’s more of a family affair. In Bolivia, it’s traditional for families to take their ‘pesebre’ figurines to church, and have them blessed by the priest. At the end of mass, several families gather around the church to exchange figurines or ornaments and sometimes they give gifts to families in need.
In Puerto Rico
This Caribbean country has another way of celebrating too. In Puerto Rico, it’s traditional to see children running to parks to rip off patches of grass. At the end of the day on the eve of Epiphany day, they stash the grass in a shoe box that they put under the bed for the Kings to find. The grass is meant to feed the camel, horse, and elephant and the Kings take it in exchange for presents for the kids.
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