By Patricia Hall, FairfaxFamilyFun.com
Feliz Navidad! Yes, it’s already January, but the Christmas season is not quite over yet. As I mentioned in another post about the “12 Days of Christmas,” these days begin, not end, on December 25, and the Christmas season for many doesn’t wrap up until the day of the Epiphany.
The Feast of the Epiphany, very simply explained, celebrates the visit of the Magi or “the Three Wise Men” to Baby Jesus. The traditional date for the feast is January 6. But it’s the night of January 5th that gets many kids excited: it is then when the Three Wise Men, or “Reyes Magos” (Gaspar, Melchor, and Balthasar) likewise visit them, bearing gifts just as they brought to Jesus (…and as Santa Claus now brings to kids on Christmas Eve).
Traditionally, in some Spanish-speaking cultures, in fact, it was not Santa who would bring the kids the Christmas gifts, but the Three Wise Men. As Santa Claus continued to gain popularity, some Hispanic and Latino cultures embraced this new tradition as well. If you were lucky enough to be a kid raised in a place that celebrates both, you could get present from Santa on Christmas Eve and then again from the “Reyes Magos” on the night of January 5th!
Though this holiday is not as commonly celebrated in most of the United States, in other parts of the world the celebrations of the Epiphany — and the Magi — are huge. These places include Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Paraguay, and other countries in Europe, Latin America, and more. Some countries have full festivals, while right here in the United States you can find a handful of big events as well, from a huge parade in New York to a multiple-day celebration at Disneyland in California.
But for most families, the celebrations are simple. Many will enjoy a roscón de reyes (or rosca de reyes, “kings’ ring”), a pastry that is decorated with fruits symbolizing the gems that adorned the kings and which is similar to the King Cake common during Mardi Gras. And on January 5, the kids will leave goodies for the kings (the equivalent of milk and cookies for Santa) and, by their beds, boxes full of grass for the camels. Then they wake up on January 6 to find surprises, celebrate the day (in some countries it’s a public holiday) and the end of the Christmas season.
Will the Three Wise Men be visiting your house this year?