Today is the Last day of Christmas! A day of celebration for most of the world and yet here in the United States it goes almost completely unnoticed. The Twelve days of Christmas is a popular song but the meaning as been lost through the over secularization of the Christmas Holiday. Like its Jewish counterpart of Hanukkah, Christmas was originally meant to be a drawn out celebration that lasted for twelve days or the days between Christ’s Mass and the Epiphany. Go ahead and count them, Christmas day is the 25th of December and starting on the 26th count twelve days forward and you will end on January 6th. Somehow the more protestant societies of the world moved further from the original form of celebrations and as those societies secularized the focus shifted and Santa became the center stage while the three kings were almost lost.
Thank goodness for multiculturalism! More and more people are becoming aware of the importance of today whether it’s through Dora the Explorer or just by having friends from Hispanic/Latin backgrounds. I am a Puerto Rican, even though I speak very little spanish and I’ve only visited the Island once in my life I was still raised celebrating and eating in some of the traditional ways. On the other hand my husband is Dominican and actually grew up in the Dominican Republic, which means that he grew up in a culture that actually celebrates today. For him school did not start until after January 6th and he did not open presents until today…at least until he moved to the US. Than his family adopted a similar tradition to mine, two days of presents!!
So if you too would like to introduce Three kings day to your family here are some of the traditions we have adapted to fit into a more Americanized schedule.
1. Read the story of the Three Wise Men on the night of January 5th, which can be found in Mathew 2:1-12.
2. On the night of January 5th have your children gather a bowl full of grass, leaves, or hay and place those bowls at the foot of their beds or beside their shoes at the front door. The tradition is to tell children that as the Wise Men are traveling to find baby Jesus (because they were not there on Christmas day but the accepted notion is that it was closer to two years later) they will stop at your house to feed and water their camels and in return for your kindness they will leave a gift. Than once the children are asleep discard of the grass and water and leave a present nearby the empty bowls. note: the kind of gift is up to you, I grew up getting a board game or small toy whereas my husband received his big/special gift on Three Kings Day.
3. Make January 6th a fun day, after school (because school usually starts on the 3rd here) do something special. Go to the Zoo, a fun Playground, visit with family or pretty much anything you would save for a Saturday.
4. Have a nice dinner. It was the custom in Jesus’ day to have a large or intricate meal when guests came to your house as a form of hospitality and really what kind of holiday would it be if there were no great foods! We go super traditional for dinner in our house with Arroz con Gandules (yellow rice with pigeon peas), Pasteles (if you’ve ever seen a tamale its a lot like that only the masa is made out of green bananas and plantains), pernil (roast pork), and the not so traditional Cupcakes. If I’m feeling really ambitious I might make some acapurias or empanadas but I don’t usually make them. Also if you would like to go Latin American traditional than you can make a Three Kings Day cake, but I don’t know anything about them other than what you would find through google.
It’s altogether a fun tradition that brings us back to Christmas celebration roots so change it to make it your own and just HAVE FUN!
Feliz dia de Los Reyes!!