The story of the Three Wise Men, also known as the Magi, goes back to Biblical times. In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, it is said that a group of wise men from far away lands followed a star in the sky and arrived at Bethlehem just after Jesus was born. The three wise men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for Jesus. This story has become an integral part of Christmas celebrations around the world.
Though often misunderstood as kings, these were actually sages from ancient Persia or Babylonia who were learned in astronomy and astrology. They likely traveled to Bethlehem in search not only of a new king but also to offer their respects to this holy figure.
The story of the Three Wise Men became popularized during Medieval Europe when art often depicted them as presenting their gifts to the Christ Child on his birthday. Today, this image is shared throughout many cultures during Christmas time as a reminder of God’s ultimate love for mankind. This tradition has spread further since then and today features prominently in many traditional Christmas carols and stories associated with this holiday season.
How is Dia De Los Reyes Celebrated?
Three Kings’ Day, also known as the Feast of Epiphany, is a Christian/Catholic holiday celebrated on January 6th. On this day, people remember the visit of the Three Wise Men to baby Jesus in Bethlehem. The Magi, or Three Kings, are commemorated with processions, special church services and family meals. In some countries like Spain, Mexico and other Latin American countries – they exchange gifts in celebration of the Wise Men who brought gifts for baby Jesus.
In Mexico, families celebrate with Rosca de Reyes, or King’s Cake. The Rosca de Reyes is an oval shaped cake that symbolizes a crown and has a small “baby Jesus” figurine inside. The figure symbolizes the hiding of the infant Jesus from King Herod’s troops. Traditionally, Roscas are adorned with dried and candied fruits to symbolize the many jewels on a crown. Whoever gets the slice with the doll figure within symbolizes the hosting of ‘Dia de la Candelaria’ during February.
Dominican kids wake up early in the morning and open their presents, followed by a day filled with family and celebrations.
Puerto Ricans start their Three Wise Men celebration with Vispera de Reyes. Children collect grass in a box, to symbolize a gift for the camels.
In parts of South America, like Argentina and Paraguay, on January 5th kids leave their shoes by the door, and put out grass and water for the camels. Early morning on January 6th kids find gifts in their shoes left by the “Reyes Magos”. According to tradition – the Kings avoid houses where children are awake.
It is believed that the founder of Lima Peru, Francisco Pizarro named the city “La Ciudad de los Reyes” because it was founded on January 6th.
In Brazil, “Dia dos Reis” starts on January 5th into the morning of January 6th and it’s celebrated with music, candy, and regional dishes.
Central America celebrates the Solemnidad de la Epifania del Señor with worshiping rituals and prayers.
Chile celebrates La Pascua de los Negros which is celebrated between the Afrolatin community. This celebration comes from African slaves that would go out to the streets on January 6th to celebrate and honor the King Baltasar which is believed to have come from Africa.
During the Spanish colonization, especially in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Mexico, Three Kings Day was a “day off” for many Black slaves, so they would use this day to celebrate with lots of music and drums.
These are just some of the many ways Latines celebrate Dia de Los Reyes Magos. How are you celebrating?