Three Kings Day: Celebrating El Día de Los Reyes

Three Kings Day: Celebrating El Dia Los Reyes

On December 26th of every year, many parents look forward to the taking down of their stockings from above the fireplace, the saying a much-too-happy farewell and shove off to the Elf-on-the-Shelf, and the tossing out or boxing up of their tree until the next beloved Christmas season. For countless Latinx parents, however, we hold off on the packing away of all things Christmas. Our family holiday traditions go a little differently, and extend beyond Christmas Day.

El Día de Los Reyes in Latin America

All over Latin America, on January 6th, there are festivals, parades, and gatherings of all kinds to observe el Día de Los Reyes, or Three Kings Day, in what Latinx culture signifies the end of the holiday season. It commemorates both the historical and biblical journey the three kings, or wise men, took to visit brown baby King Jesus of whom the stars proclaimed. While each country has its own variation of festivities, you can usually count on there being three men dressed in colorful royal robes passing out candy and treats to happy children with sticky fingers followed by their laughing and talkative families. When I think about how I can’t bring Latin American celebrations like this to my half-Mexican, half-Ecuadorian son, it saddens me. There is so much I feel he misses out on growing up here in the states, but we do as much as any parent can. We do our best. So, we will celebrate los reyes in this way.

Family Traditions for Los Reyes

Shoes Out, Gifts In

We will show him how to lay his shoes underneath the Christmas tree. Similar to how the three kings each brought a gift for baby Jesus, the kings also pay each house a visit that night, leaving little gifts for the children of each household inside their shoes. This year, los reyes will probably be leaving favorite candies, stickers, little toys, and stamps inside our toddler’s shoes. Nothing too crazy, but kids get excited either way about waking up to surprises. Think stocking stuffers, if you will!

Rosca de Reyes: Food Fit for Kings

We will teach him to devour rosca de reyes. A sweet bread in the shape of an oval, it is usually enjoyed with some yummy hot chocolate amongst family and friends. What everyone tries to avoid is the baby figurine hidden inside, because whoever gets it, is obligated to host a party and/or provide tamales for everyone on February 2nd, Día de la Candelaria, or Candelaria Day. I’m tellin’ ya, in Latinx culture, the party just don’t stop!

Unfortunately, because of the 2022 omicron world we live in, that latter part probably won’t be happening, and we will have to keep it small here at home. Now, some may be brave enough to try and make their own rosca de reyes, but I have no shame in my game; I will be picking ours up from our local Mexican panadería. This will be the first time our son tries rosca, so I will be leaving it to the professionals. Granted, he will probably pick off all the candied dried fruit on top and leave the bread for us to finish, in true toddler fashion, but still.

Wisdom in Brown Baby King Jesus

We will tell him of the wisdom of the kings who sought brown baby King Jesus. We will tell him how they studied the stars because the heavens themselves declare God’s truth and we need only look up from time to time. We will remind ourselves of this also because it is often simple truths that awaken our souls again and again.

In our home, we aim to celebrate all traditional Latinx holidays, even and especially the ones we didn’t observe in our own childhoods. Raising our son biculturally means showing him what it means to lean into being de aquí y de allá {from here and from there}. So, while we may begin the holiday season with Papá Noel {Santa Claus}, just like most everyone else in the states, for us, being Latinx means we will always end the holiday season with Los Tres Reyes {the Three Kings}.


 

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Liz was born into a big, beautiful, and loud Ecuadorian-American family. For the first nineteen years of her life, they lived in Clifton, New Jersey, until the cold weather got to be too much. While she was not initially a fan of the move to Texas, Liz now adores the city of Houston, so much so that she had the downtown skyline tattooed on her forearm. Houston proudly witnessed her graduate with a degree in Bilingual Education and joyfully watched her become a seasoned classroom teacher. Houston most importantly taught Liz how to two-step and line dance, while reminding her of her deep love for old-school Latin salsa. Houston beamed with excitement when she unexpectedly fell in love with a Pasadena-raised country-lovin’ boy who would become her husband and the father of their little boy. Now, Houston gets a front-row seat to Liz’s unfolding, healing, and becoming through the art of storytelling and poetry. Telling and writing stories was always Liz’s first and greatest love, and coming back to it now for her feels like coming home. Here in Houston, or wherever she and her family end up, she rests easy, knowing they are forever gathered under the wings of the Divine.

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