Christmas is over but for many Latin Americans and Caribbeans the day of the Epiphany is around the corner and the children will be anxiously awaiting for what the Three Kings will bring them.
This is the real Christmas for many children in Latin America although not so much for the adults. Especially if the family is having financial difficulty.
The story goes that in the scriptures Matthew the Apostle describes the visit of the Magi as something miraculous that occurred when a shining light guided the Three Kings to Bethlehem, some 12 days after Baby Jesus was born. The importance of the event is that this is the first time that God reveals himself as a human being by being born on earth.
The Kings came baring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
But why so much adoration for the Three Kings?
We don’t know, but it’s a tradition that is as old as some of the countries that celebrate it. It's definitely a tradition that came with the arrival of the Spanish Conquest to the New World and the spread of Catholicism.
But there are differences in some South American countries. In Colombia for instance, the country of my youth. We celebrated Christmas on Dec. 24 at night with midnight mass, and later gifts. The children believed “Baby Jesus” brought them the gifts. The gifts are not placed under a tree but rather on the beds. As the children wake up gifts tumble to the floor or against the wall, and the children get surprised.
But this year I celebrated Christmas on Dec. 24 and the 25. However, I saved some toys for my grandson who will celebrate Three Kings Day on Jan. 6, like his mom.
But the tradition is catching on and Disneyland for the first time will be celebrating the event as well.
In the Vatican, Pope Benedict will be presiding over a special mass and will read the following from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (www.vatican.va)
LITU RGIA VERBI
Gloria Domini super te orta est.
A reading from the prophet Isaiah 60, 1-6
Arise, shine out, Jerusalem, for your light has come,
the glory of the Lord is rising on you,
though night still covers the earth
and darkness the peoples.
Above you the Lord now rises
and above you his glory appears.
The nations come to your light
and kings to your dawning brightness.
Lift up your eyes and look round:
all are assembling and coming towards you,
your sons from far away
and daughters being tenderly carried.
At this sight you will grow radiant,
your heart throbbing and full;
since the riches of the sea will flow to you;
the wealth of the nations come to you;
camels in throngs will cover you,
and dromedaries of Midian and Ephah;
everyone in Sheba will come,
bringing gold and incense
and singing the praise of the Lord.
As for me, I’m going to the Museo del Barrio’s 36th Annual Three Kings Day Parade on Friday, Jan. 4 from 10am to noon, starting at 106th Street where real camels and donkeys will parade with the Three Kings through Spanish Harlem.
¡Feliz Dia de Reyes!