My beautiful Puerto Rico: The Three Kings Day

A new year has begun. January has arrived! The celebrations continue. After Christmas Day, in Puerto Rico and in many other Hispanic countries, the Day of the Three Kings, also known as the Day of the Magi, or Day of the Wise Men, is celebrated. January 6 is a holiday for us Puerto Ricans because traditionally the Magi bring gifts to the children, as they brought gifts to the baby Jesus.

Los Tres Reyes Magos, art by Belmar & Adriana Alvarado, displayed at Alvarado family celebration 2020

As I mentioned in my recent publication about our Christmas traditions in Puerto Rico, we inherited this celebration from Spain. On the Island, many traditions were brought and imposed by the first Spaniard settlers, and Puerto Rico was for many years under the rule of Spain. Many of their celebrations were adopted and have been transmitted from generation to generation. See https://fullofcoffee.blog/2019/12/23/my-beautiful-puerto-rico-our-christmas-traditions/.

To share a little bit of history, this celebration is influenced by religious beliefs, especially Christian and Catholic. The visit of the Kings is based on the passages of the bible where it is indicated that the wise men were waiting for the birth of Jesus and followed the signs of the biblical prophecies. They traveled to where the child was born. It is not indicated that they were kings or how many they were, but three gifts were received: gold, incense and myrrh. Here I share this article (in Spanish) from the newspaper Primera Hora of Puerto Rico with more information https://www.primerahora.com/noticias/puerto-rico/nota/dedondesurgelatradiciondelostresreyesmagos-1197853/.

Los Tres Reyes Magos, art by Belmar Alvarado, displayed at Alvarado family celebration 2019

This day is also the twelfth (12th) after Christmas, known as Epiphany Day, which celebrates (in the Christian and Catholic religion) the revelation of Jesus as the son of God or God incarnate.

Looking for grass for the camels of the Kings. Photo courtesy of José Herminio Zayas

I remember that in my childhood we used to go out to the yard to look for grass to leave the camels. We put the grass in shoe boxes and left it next to or under our beds. Santa Claus did not visit our house because, as my mother told us, snow was needed for the sleigh and in Puerto Rico there is no snow. Today, children leave their shoe boxes near the Christmas tree. The joy of getting up and finding gifts was immense.

Grass ready for the camels of the Kings
Photo courtesy of Beatriz Alvarado

Many of us, who live outside the Island, or our country of origin, still celebrate this day and teach our children to follow this tradition. My children, when they were little, told me “I just have to put grass and receive gifts? Okay.”

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The Three Kings at the Alvarado family celebration in Orocovis. Photo courtesy of Auranyd Alvarado

As part of the celebrations, my family joins other Alvarado families to share on this day. This celebration, according to conversation with my cousin Auranyd, has been held since 1976, when several cousins ​​met and mentioned among them that there were many musicians in the family, what a shame they didn’t meet more often. They decided that the Three Kings Day was a good date for a family reunion. Among the founders are my uncle Ramón Alvarado (husband of my aunt Nydia), and his cousins ​​Angel Luis Alvarado and Ana Delgia Alvarado.

Parranda at the Alvarado family celebration,
my uncle Ramón Alvarado with his accordion.
Photo courtesy of Adriana Alvarado

Already today, 2020, 44 years of this party are celebrated. The family was organized as Los Alvarado Cultural Group and a center was built for this activity in the Bermejales neighborhood, in Orocovis, Puerto Rico. As of today, there are five generations that have been participating in this party. There, several families from all over the Island meet, share food, music, and gifts are shared for the children. In recent years, “parrandas” have begun to be presented. Each family enters with music, to the joy of those present.

Parranda at the Alvarado family celebration. Photo courtesy of Adriana Alvarado

Among the members of the founding relatives, there are many talented musicians who share their art as part of the activities. Here I share a parranda, performed by my cousins at the Alvarado family celebration. This was in 2018, after the Hurricane María. There was no electricity at the center where they performed, so they were working with generators. Check here (singing in Spanish) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgmtoBCQgxQ&t=0s.

In Puerto Rico, it’s also a tradition for children and families to visit la Fortaleza, the Governor’s mansion in San Juan, to receive toys. Another tradition of many years is the parade of the Three Kings in Juana Díaz. A parade is held with the Magi. It takes place in the town of Juana Díaz and has been celebrated for more than 135 years. There is a museum in this town that opened in 2004. The Museum of the Three Wise Men of Juana Díaz was the first dedicated to the Magi. Here is a little history of this popular celebration on the Island (in Spanish) http://www.reyesdejuanadiaz.com/historia.php.

Monument to the Magi (Three Kings) in Juana Díaz

Like the visit to Santa Claus, for many Hispanic children visiting the Kings to bring them the list of desired gifts is a magical moment. As a Puerto Rican living outside the Island, I want to preserve this tradition and teach my children to continue celebrating it.

My sister Hilda, who has lived with her family in Spain since 2013, has been able to enjoy these activities, since where she lives, this festivity is also observed. Near her residence, she has the opportunity to enjoy a traditional parade known as Cabalgatas de Reyes.

My niece with one of the Kings in Spain, photo courtesy of Hilda Alvarado

Here in Florida the Kings arrived! It’s time to open presents. It’s time for my tacita de café! Salud! ¡Feliz Día de Reyes!

Para versión en español, vea https://fullofcoffee.blog/2020/01/06/mi-hermoso-puerto-rico-el-dia-de-los-reyes-magos/.

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