Those Three Kings

The Epiphany (Jan 6, the day the three kings supposedly came to baby Jesus) is celebrated like this in Wisconsin: kids go to school, people go to work, and if you’re a strict Catholic you might attend service in the evening.  My parents never made me go, unless it fell on a Sunday anyway. No big deal.

Puerto Rico? It’s a national holiday. On January 5th my hubby went to the bank at 2pm and…closed at noon! Toys R Us was PACKED!  Oh.  Fireworks were shot around our neighborhood that night. 

Speaking of night…apparently the Puerto Rico kids put out grass for the three king’s camels, and even treats for the Kings themselves! Because I guess you tell the kids that the Kings come to your house with gifts the night of the 5th.  In fact, my neighbor grew up in he country and said Santa never came to her house, she didn’t get gifts until the three kings brought some on January 6th. I guess Santa was more of a city thing. Now maybe all those men go to everyone’s house? I’m not sure how they explain to the kids how the Magi’s magically get to everyone’s house. I have a hard enough time warding off detailed questions about Santa. I can’t imagine weaseling my way of explaining a whole other story!

It’s 5:30am on the 6th and we have all our doors and windows open because the weather is mah-valous dahling and what happens? Some ASSHOLE starts blaring music outside our neighborhood. Sounds like one of those trucks with the mega speakers driving back and forth. Ugh! What a jerk! I am incredibly irritated and start sending hate vibes to that person and wonder if anyone is going to call the cops.  The music persisted until around 6:30am. 

And no, no one called the cops. It was a parade put on by the MAYOR! Apparently I missed this last year. A parade. Pre dawn. Three dudes dressed up as the Kings sit in a truck that goes around waking up the kids in the city to come outside and find their gifts. (There’s a Jehova Witness church right outside our neighborhood. I bet they love this very intruding tradition). I’ve heard that this is a very exciting tradition that the kids adore. The three kings came to Jesus in the wee hours of the morning ( I can hear Mary thinking, “really??”) I guess there is a certain pre-dawn energy but whew! How many ornery kids will run around the next day? My friend in Cabo Rojo said they had 4am public celebrations. Like you had to get up and physically go somewhere at 4am people.  Haha. Never would fly in Wisconsin. We hunker down those long cold winter nights. (But I shouldn’t judge. I woke up at 5am last July 4th to snag good parade seats).   

The morning paper

 My neighbors gave our kiddos some gifts (I didn’t). And mi hija y yo attended a party at a friends house. I had to detour around some big Three Kings street parties where I heard they give out freebies to kids. That’s cool.    

Somewhere along the line the kings realized that nobody cares about myrrh


or frankincense


It’s 9:37pm as I write this and there are kids running around the streets and I can hear a neighbor’s party music. Sounds like a live band. 

We probably broke some sort of code since we took down our Christmas tree already, but it’s our tradition to do so on January 1st. 

I do love learning about other countries’ traditions!

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1 Response to Those Three Kings

  1. Jean T. says:

    Hi Laura, Great blogpost! Thanks for updating my cultural knowledge. Celebrating the Three Kings seems like a great way to take advantage of post-Christmas sales, but I’m guessing those don’t start in Puerto Rico until Jan. 7th. It’s interesting that in Orthodox Christianity, Epiphany is Christmas Eve! I read that it’s certainly celebrated the Puerto Rican way in Spain and throughout Latin America, but better that way than Bulgaria’s way: “Led by a drummer and several men playing the bagpipes, the people danced in the freezing waters, pushing away floating chunks of ice.”

    As for Santa, Sara’s kids always watched Santa fly around on the world on the internet and loved that when they were younger. “Look. Look. He’s in France right now and will fly to Canada at midnight.” I don’t know who operates the site, but I think it’s NOAA. It’s all animated.

    I always told my kids (and my students) about how Santa has different names in every country, something your children would really understand better than most. Also, how “St. Nicolas” said very fast turns into “Sinter Klaus” or “Santa Claus”, so his real name was mangled by us English speakers.

    I think most kids give up their beliefs in magical things when they are ready to do so. I had 3rd graders who did not believe at all (probably those with older siblings) and others who really needed to believe (one in particular whose mom had died the previous year). I always had fun when a student would say, “It’s your mom!” I’d reply, “My mom? No way! She can’t afford to give out gifts to every kid!” They’d say, “No. My mom!” My reply: “Your mom! Wow! Tell her thank you so much for all the gifts she gave me. What a wonderful person she is.” They’d say, ” No. No.” Eventually they’d give up and probably thought I was really thickheaded.

    Liz was pretty savvy by age 5 and asked all the hard questions. I told her that, yes, of course S.C. can’t be real at every shopping mall before Christmas (he has so much work to do at the N.P.), so he has to hire helpers to see the kids. She satisfied her that year. In the years that followed, someone published the building plans of Santa’s house and workshop, with cut outs of all the people and animals, so that was fun to get.

    Our neighbor’s kids weren’t allowed the S.C. tradition (parental fear of undermining their kids’ trust in them?), and that left the kids more troubled later on. One surveyed of all her friends in high school to find out how they felt about S.C. vs. The Truth. Her friends all supported the tradition and didn’t feel at all scarred by it.

    Traditions come and go, so never feel you are doing things wrong. At our house, we started the tradition of opening gifts only after everyone drank orange juice on Christmas morning. Why? Because we’d seen it on “Eight is Enough”! And my kids brought home the tradition of getting a gift on 12/5 – St. Nicolas Eve – because their friends did it. After that, mine would each find their own new tree ornament on their bedroom door in the morning of the 6th.

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