Every year on January 6, my family celebrates Three Kings Day (El Dia de los Tres Reyes). It’s also known as “Feast of the Epiphany”. It is celebrated in many countries throughout the world particularly Spain, Italy, and Spanish-speaking countries. Epiphany is when the Three Kings arrived in Bethlehem. For Spanish children, this is the most important day of the year when they wake up to find that Los Reyes Magos (the Three Kings) have left gifts for them in their house.
January 5, the eve of Three Kings Day, is a huge party in Spain. It’s similar to our Christmas Eve celebrations but it symbolizes the end of Christmas. Families gather together for dinner and wait till midnight to give and receive presents. It is to celebrate the arrival of the Three Wise Men – Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. Just as the Three Wise Men gave gifts to baby Christ, the Spanish give presents to children.
Each city in Spain has parade possessions of the Three Wise Men, the children go along with there parents to see the kings and receive sweets from them.
Before going to sleep, instead of putting some milk and cookies next to the Christmas tree, children leave grass and water under their bed to feed the camels. Children leave their shoes out the night before or a box, similar to how stockings are left out on Christmas Eve. In some countries they stuff the shoes with straw or hay for the kings camels. In Cuba for instance we put the shoes under the bed. In Spain and other countries they put the shoes under the tree. The shoes are filled with presents and candy.
In the morning the children wake up to see how many presents they have received. If they have been good, they will find a lot of presents but if they have been naughty they will find coal in their shoes. These days, the coal are actually rocks, but some years ago it was real coal.
During this day, all families enjoy a tranditional piece of Roscon de Reyes (King’s Cake) dessert (a sugar-frosted fruit-filled bread) which is served the night before or for breakfast. Tradition says that the person who finds the plastic figurine of baby jesus, in his or her portion will have good luck for the next year.
It’s a tradition that has been around in my family for many years and still lives on. Happy Three Kings Days (Dia de Los Reyes) to everyone!
Do you celebrate Three Kings Day?