Celebrating Three Kings Day

by Melanie Edwards on January 6, 2010 · 11 comments

in Puerto Rico

The Three Kings - Los Tres Reyes

Photo from Photobucket - Click on image for original source

Happy Three Kings Day! Feliz Dí­a de los Tres Reyes Magos!

We did it. Last year, after not celebrating, I resolved to celebrate Three Kings Day this year. And, though it’s a normal work day and baby girl is at preschool today, she did get her gift this morning and participated in the traditional Three Kings Day festivities.

It’s nice for me to share this tradition with her and remember my own childhood memories of celebrating El Día de los Reyes. I remember making my basket with my family, filling it with grass on La Víspera de Reyes (the Eve of Three Kings Day), and being excited the next morning when I found the grass had been replaced with candy and the kings had also left me a gift.

There was one particular year that I remember vividly because I did something that I regret to this day. I can remember that I wanted one of those Barbie motorcycles; I think they were a hot item back then. When I opened my gift, it was a Barbie scooter instead, or maybe it was a moped. What I know is that it wasn’t the motorcycle I wanted. And I said, in my little whiny voice too, “Esto no es lo que yo queria!” (This isn’t what I wanted!) I was of course quickly reprimanded and told to appreciate what the kings had brought me because other kids may not have gotten anything. But, I can still remember my mami’s face right before she scolded me. When I was old enough and learned that my parents were the ones that actually provided the gifts and that it wasn’t actually Los Reyes, I felt horrible. I know that I apologized to my mom at one point or another, maybe even multiple times. I will probably apologize again today and we’ll laugh it off.

So, how do we celebrate Three Kings Day? I believe that each Latino culture has their own special way of doing so. I can only tell you how we personally celebrated in Puerto Rico and what I am passing down to my baby girl so that she can learn about the tradition.

Celebrating Three Kings Day (El Día de los Tres Reyes Magos)

  1. First, you will need either a plain shoebox or a basket made from a shoebox. Here is a picture of the basket my brother and father made for my daughter a couple of years back:

    Three Kings Day Basket - Canasta de Tres Reyes

    The basket is normally decorated with bows made out of wax paper, but we’ve had trouble finding such paper. So, we also used regular wrapping paper.

  2. Then, the night before Three Kings Day - La Vispera de Reyes – have your child collect some grass from your yard and put it in the basket. The grass is for the kings’ camels. This is analogous to setting out milk & cookies for Santa or carrots for his reindeer.
  3. The basket then goes under the bed (or next to it if it doesn’t fit).
  4. In the middle of the night, after your child is sleeping, throw out the grass and replace it with candy. Place a gift next to the basket.
  5. The next morning, your child will be delighted to find the gift and candy that the Three Kings left behind!
  6. Don’t forget to explain that Los Tres Reyes left a gift for him/her the same way that they brought gifts for baby Jesus when he was born. That is the meaning behind all this and why we celebrate.

It’s a fun holiday and I’m so glad that we pulled it off this year. I plan on continuing to celebrate each year so that baby girl can create her own memories and embrace this Latino tradition of celebrating Three Kings Day.

Speaking of memories…I caught a little video of her preparing to collect the grass last night. Listen closely around the 14-second marker as I try hard not to laugh.

Have you ever celebrated El Dia de Los Reyes? Do you think you might next year?

Liked this? Share the love!

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Payton January 7, 2010 at 9:05 am

Very cool. You’ve been getting me excited about learning more every time you blog or tweet about Three Kings. I love learning how other cultures celebrate holidays. THanks for sharing.

Reply

Melanie (ModernMami) January 7, 2010 at 2:35 pm

@Susan Payton, Happy to share Susan! This marks the beginning of carnival season in Louisiana doesn’t it? Time for king’s cake? Is that what it’s called?

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Susan Payton January 7, 2010 at 3:39 pm

@Melanie (ModernMami), it is indeed. I think we’ll get a King Cake for Mardi Gras this year. We don’t usually do much but Max is into it after going to the Mardi Gras museum.

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Jeannette January 8, 2010 at 11:31 am

Que lindo es ver que sigas con nuestras tradiciones a pesar de que no estés en nuestra isla. Me emocione mucho pues mi papa nos llevaba a buscar la yerba para los camellos al campo, esos recuerdos los llevo en mi corazón para toda la vida!!
Un abrazo desde tu islita del encanto
Jeannette

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Melanie (ModernMami) January 14, 2010 at 1:25 pm

@Jeannette, Muchas gracias por el abrazo desde mi isla! Yo trato de mantener las tradiciones para que mi nena aprenda de su cultura.

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Ana Lilian January 11, 2010 at 7:39 pm

I feel so left out since we never, ever celebrated Los Reyes Magos! I grew up in El Salvador, and, for some reason, it just wasn’t a huge tradition.
I didn’t celebrate it this year with my daughter, but now I’m getting inspired to do it next year!
Llamas or camels…I’ll pick llamas! Lol! too cute

Reply

Melanie (ModernMami) January 14, 2010 at 1:27 pm

@Ana Lilian, I hope you can get those three kings and their llamas to visit your daughter next year! ;)

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LaLicenciada January 5, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Love this post! In my fam my mom mixed candy with little gifts. She would also use easter grass – ahem – and say, “Pues, los camels aren’t going to eat them anyway.” She also told me the camels came into the apartment via magic, same as St. Nick. LOL Of course, I believed her. We no longer set out the grass, but we exchange little gifts left by los reyes magos- I’m all geared up for tomorrow morning!!

Happy 3 Kings Day to you and yours!!!

Hugs,
Li
@LaLicenciada
@HerDeepThoughts

Reply

LaLicenciada January 5, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Love this post! In my fam my mom mixed candy with little gifts. She would also use easter grass – ahem – and say, “Pues, los camels aren’t going to eat them anyway.” She also told me the camels came into the apartment via magic, same as St. Nick. LOL Of course, I believed her. We no longer set out the grass, but we exchange little gifts left by los reyes magos- I’m all geared up for tomorrow morning!!

Happy 3 Kings Day to you and yours!!!

Hugs,
Li
@LaLicenciada
@HerDeepThoughts

Reply

modernmami January 5, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Jajaja love the Easter grass!!

Feliz Tres Reyes to you! :)

Reply

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