El Día de los Reyes Magos
By Ana Borden
One of my favorite days of the year is Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, or as most New Orleanians would tell you, the first day of Carnival season.
Yes, entering the start of the king cake season is a plus, but for me it signifies most importantly the 12th and final day of the Christmas season.
Throughout most of Spain, Central and South America, it is one of the most well-celebrated holidays called “El Día de los Reyes Magos.”
The importance of this holiday marks the arrival of the three kings – Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar – into Bethlehem to worship the newborn child, Jesus.
While New Orleanians are looking forward to waking up to indulge on a purple-, green- and gold-decorated pastry, in most Spanish-speaking countries, children are awakening to find gifts in their shoes from the Three Wise Men.
As a child, I looked forward to this holiday. Some of the most cherished tokens from my childhood where gifts from these traveled kings.
As unique as each Spanish-speaking country’s dialect is, each one’s variation of the traditions celebrated on this holiday is also distinctive.
Following Mass on this holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church, families gather together, parades occur throughout towns that are decorated with lights and Nativity scenes the evening before, and reenactments of the arrival of the Three Kings into town even taken place.
Sweets are prepared to be enjoyed on this day and to be given as gifts. Days earlier children write letters to their favorite “Reye Mago” or “Wise Man.”
And, just like children leave reindeer food for Santa’s crew, children awaiting the arrival of the camels leave them hay and bowls of water to enjoy during their journey.
¡Feliz día de los Reyes Magos!
How do you celebrate the Epiphany?