Keeping Traditions Alive with Three Kings Day
I love my little island, Puerto Rico. I love all of my culture’s different nuances so much that I distinctively remember deciding after visiting family one summer as a college student that although I now lived in the U.S., I would find and marry a suitable Puerto Rican man just so that my children could enjoy everything I loved about our music, food and traditions.
Sure enough, three years later I married my husband and while he is wonderful in many ways, he is not Puerto Rican. He does speak enough Spanish to engage in conversation with my two abuelitas, and can salsa way better than my dad can. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to raise our kids in a bi-cultural family, but it also makes it challenging to pass down certain traditions I cherish. But it recently dawned on me that if I don’t do it, nobody else will. Yes, I know, a big “Duh!” moment.
So 2014 is the year. I am determined to teach my kids more of about their heritage and my island’s history. What better way to start off my new resolution than with El Día de los Reyes Magos, Three Kings Day. In Puerto Rico, Christmas celebrations don’t end until after January 6th, which is why my house is the only one on my street that still has Christmas lights on. I remember when I was a little girl, gathering grass in my little shoe box and leaving it under my bed so that when the Three Wise Men came to visit at night on their way to visit Baby Jesus, they’d have grass for their camels and in return leave a token of appreciation, ideally in the form of a really cool gift.
Sunday night, Three Kings Day Eve, we rounded up some shoe boxes from around the house and got working on filling them up with grass. Put them under their beds, and then they went to sleep anxiously waiting for morning so they could open presents.
Keeping this tradition is challenging in the U.S. because the holidays are “over” and school and work are in full swing. It was totally worth it though, even if we had to rush to get ready for school.
In Puerto Rico, and many Latin American countries, January 6th is filled with family gatherings and fancy dinners just like Christmas Day is over here. A special food many make is the Rosca de Reyes. Now, I confess, I actually don’t remember eating this as a little girl, but Abuela did confirm that we had them growing up. (Side note: I have a horrible memory!)
This year I tried making my first ever “rosca.” I call it “rosca” because the real thing is very elaborate made of bread and includes dried fruit, which my picky kids won’t eat. So I made a scaled-down, kid-friendly version — instead of bread I made it into a cake, and substituted the dried fruit for gummy bunnies. OH, and of course it was “special” – gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, nut-free and soy-free. Unfortunately for me, it was NOT fat-free nor sugar-free. And for the skeptics out there, it tasted pretty good. To see a picture and recipes of the real thing, check out Happy Día de Reyes! at Mamá Latina Tips.
After dinner, I held the “rosca” hostage until we sat down and read the Bible story of the three wise men.
No holiday is complete without family. My mom and Abuela came by afterwards to give gifts to the kids.
I’m hoping we can continue doing this tradition every year, and one day, I’ll be the “Abuela” coming to bring presents to her grandkids on Three Kings Day. I’m sure by then, I will have mastered the real rosca!