By: Patricia Ann Talley, Editor
In Spanish countries, the children do not receive gifts in December on Christmas day. Instead, the family exchanges gifts on January 6th of the new year on Three Kings Day – Día de Los Reyes Magos. This celebration stems from the New Testament of the Bible, where it states that the kings, Melchor, Gaspar, and Balthasar, traveled by night all the way from the farthest confines of the earth to bring gifts to the baby Jesus. Arriving from three different directions, the kings followed the light provided by the star of Bethlehem, which reportedly lingered over the manger where the Virgin Mary gave birth for many days.
Día de Los Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day) is based on the Biblical story of the kings arriving to give gifts to the baby Jesus.
Three Kings Day is celebrated with festive lights in the streets, Nativity scenes and holiday songs. There is also a joyful parade called the “Cabalgata de Los Reyes Magos,” to symbolize the arrival of the kings. The kings ride upon horses or elaborate floats and throw goodies down to the children lining the streets. This is also traditionally the big opportunity for children to ask the kings for presents.
Rather than Santa on his sleigh, Mexican towns have a parade to celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings.
In the evening, before an early night in bed, children leave out their shoes in a spot where the kings are sure to see them. The religious monarchs, just like Santa Claus, certainly love their sweets, so the children often set out goodies to entice the kings as well as hay to feed their camels. When morning arrives, children delightedly discover that the kings nibbled the sweets, the camels ate the hay, and by their shoes, there are wrapped presents.
This magical time comes to a close the next morning with another Spanish Christmas tradition: a typical breakfast of “Roscón de Reyes,” a ring-shaped cake decorated with fruits symbolizing the precious gems that adorned the royal trio’s lavish clothing.
This celebration, based on religious tradition, is one that Mexican parents hope to preserve.