Three King’s Day is perhaps our most favorite holiday of the long holiday season of Puerto Rico and it is widely celebrated throughout all of Latin America. It is a highly important celebration in the culture of Puerto Rico.
This day celebrates the feast of the Epiphany, when the Three kings visited the newly born Christ Child in Bethlehem bearing him gifts. This tradition is repeated and reflected in present day with the belief that on this eve the Three Kings will visit every good child to deliver them gifts.
There is not much known about the original Three Kings other than that they came from the East bearing the three traditional gifts of Frankincense, Myrrh, and Gold. On the night Christ was born, the were drawn by a “mysterious light” which became a star that hung in the western sky. The followed this sign to Bethlehem, where they arrived (a little late) to honor Christ’s birth. In fact, the “12 Days of Christmas,” which is so often believed to end on December 25, actually begins on the 25th and runs through January 6, culminating with the Feast of Epiphany, or “The Adoration of the Magi.” This marks the official end of the Christmas Season in Puerto Rico.
The day requires plenty of preparation from children in particular. On the evening of Jan. 5, children will collect a shoebox full of grass and a large container of water for the Magi’s camels and place the items at the foot of their beds. In the night, the three kings will come into their rooms, take their supplies and leave a present under each child’s bed. In our family celebrations, the gifts given are generally small tokens that would fit into the shoebox.
Following that, many towns in Puerto Rico will host parades and festivals, and it is a time to gather with family. Old San Juan throws an annual festival at the Luis Muñoz Marín Park with live music, food and drink, with free gifts given out to lucky kids by the Governor. The highlight of the day occurs when the Three Kings come walking into town.
The Three Kings are also a mainstay of Puerto Rican arts and crafts. They are among the most popular subjects for the island’s santos, or handmade figurines of saints and other religious persons, and many quality souvenir shops carry some homage to them.
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