Feliz Dia de Reyes or Feast of the Three Kings!
On January 6, most of the Hispanic world celebrates El Dia De Reyes, the Epiphany. We remember the day when the three wise men or Magi followed the star to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus, bearing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. This is Epiphany on the church calendar, the 12th day after Christmas, also remembering when the Magi arrived bearing gifts for baby Jesus.
January 6th really marks the end of the Christmas season in Mexico. People start to head back to school and work after having spent time with family and friends during the past few weeks. Mexican Christmas tradition generally calls for gifts to be exchanged on Dia de Reyes instead of on Christmas day, but it’s my impression that you see gifts being exchanged on Christmas day more and more often, with the traditions of Santa and Christmas trees becoming more popular.
Growing up, my family always celebrated three kings day. The three kings would pass by our home on their way back from visiting baby Jesus in Bethlehem and, if we had been good, leave our shoes that had been left by the front door filled with candy and perhaps small treats. My siblings and I ALWAYS made sure to leave our biggest shoes out by the door, for more treat space!
I grew up in a predominately Mexican community on the south side of Chicago, so I knew many people who celebrated this day. Yes, it was not as exciting as Christmas and Santa bringing us the “big” gifts, but I did look forward to waking up on January 6th and seeing what had been left behind in my shoe by the Magi! As my siblings and I grew up, the tradition of celebrating this day became less important to me, maybe because I stopped believing in the Magi and I focused more on the festivities around Christmas. However, now that I have small children of my own I want to make sure that my they celebrate this Feast. They are likely not to learn too much about it from their school or friends, so it’s up to me. My husband is not Latino, but he appreciates our family celebrating my cultural traditions and is on board to celebrate as a family.
If you celebrate today, I hope that it’s a great day, bringing back some wonderful childhood memories. These sites have good explanations on the traditions and history around today’s Dia de Reyes.
What are Las Posadas?
Photographs by Jennifer Carrillo, Bella Rosa Photography
I love celebrating Las Posadas! They mark the beginning of Christmas festivities across México, in some parts of Latin America, and even many communities in the United States. They are a beautiful celebration of processions and parties starting December 16th and lasting for 9 consecutive days in anticipation of Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve. Posada literally means “lodging” in Spanish and they commemorate the journey that Mary and Joseph took from Nazareth to Bethlehem before Jesus’ birth on Christmas. Celebrating Las Posadas is one of the most unique Mexican traditions.
Each night between December 16th and December 24th a Posada is celebrated. A procession is formed by participants called los peregrinos or “pilgrims” and they are led by two children carrying a platform with Mary and Joseph statues. Sometimes two older children or teenagers are dressed as Mary and Joseph. In some larger scale processions, a real donkey may be used with Mary riding the donkey with Joseph by her side. Los peregrinos keep Mary and Joseph company by carrying candles (called farolitos, Spanish for “little lanterns”) and singing songs along the procession route. It’s common for young children to wear homemade costumes to represent shepherds and angels in the procession. Sometimes a child leads the entire procession while holding either a large star or a farolito. The peregrinos ask for posada or lodging at three different homes on their procession route, but only the 3rd home will allow them in. After songs and prayers around the nativity scene are complete, a party follows, of course!
As a child, my parents would often taken us to México to be with our family during the Christmas season and celebrating Las Posadas was a central part of our trips. The singing, the food, and the piñatas – I remember them fondly. When we did not make it to México for Christmas, we celebrated Las Posadas with our church community– it was just like being back in México, except that I grew up in Chicago and it was much colder during the outside procession!
As part of an ongoing effort to teach my children about their Mexican culture, my husband suggested that we celebrate Las Posadas with our friends and family. The celebration brought back many great memories for me. I hope you enjoy looking at the pictures and let us know what you think!