Christmas and New Year have passed, but the New York holiday season doesn’t conclude until its annual finale: Three Kings Day. January 6th is Feliz Dia de Reyes, a cherished holiday in many Latin cultures. NYC’s Hispanic communities honor the day with festive celebrations focused on children.
Background of Three Kings Day
Three Kings Day has roots dating back to the 4th Century, and it is also known as Feast of the Epiphany or Twelfth Night (12 days after Christmas). While the holiday is observed in numerous nations with unique traditions, many Hispanic cultures celebrate with parades and performances depicting the Biblical story of the three kings who followed a star to find the baby Jesus, offering him precious gifts. Continuing the custom of gift giving, children sometimes write letters to the Magi requesting presents. On the night of January 5th, children leave their shoes out, filled with bits of hay to feed the Magi’s animals (particularly the camels). In the morning, they find gifts in place of the hay. Another tradition is the eating of a Rosca de Reyes (King’s Ring), a sweet bread shaped like a wreath with a figurine of a baby Jesus baked inside. Customarily, the person who finds the figurine is expected to host a party on Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas), celebrated on February 2nd. Three Kings Day festivities in NYC are primarily based on holiday customs of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico.
NYC Three Kings Day Celebrations
The largest Three Kings Day celebration in NYC is the annual Three Kings Day Parade, hosted by El Museo del Barrio, a museum showcasing Latin American and Caribbean cultures. The holiday procession includes Honorary Kings, thousands of costumed school children, live camels, gigantic hand-made puppets, and performers who bring lively music and colorful dancing to the streets of El Barrio (East Harlem). The Three Kings themselves (portrayed by local celebrities) lead the festivities. On January 6th from 11am – 12:30pm, the parade will wend its way through el Barrio beginning at 106th Street and Lexington Avenue and ends at local enclave, La Marqueta, on 115th Street and Park Avenue.
- The Cathedral of St. John the Devine’s Camels and Kings: a workshop exploring the story of the three wise men and their journey. Children will also make gift boxes, costumes, and their own crowns. January 4th at 10am – 12pm. $8 per child. RSVP recommended.
- The Society of the Educational Arts, Inc./ Sociedad Educativa de las Artes, Inc. (SEA), commemorates El Día de los Reyes Magos by inviting children of the community to meet the 3 Kings, enjoy traditional Latino music, and receive a free gift. January 6, 3 – 5pm. 107 Suffolk Street , NYC
- In the Brooklyn Three Kings Day Parade, local school children and parents parade up Graham Avenue (Avenida de Puerto Rico) to PS 257. January 5th at 2pm.
- El Puente, a group dedicated to Latin American cultural preservation, presents their annual Three Kings Day Celebration, an original work based on the traditional Magi story with sets, choreography, and puppetry. January 19th, 12pm. Grand Street Campus, 850 Grand Street (@Bushwick Ave.), Brooklyn.
Do you celebrate Three Kings Day, Feast of the Epiphany or Twelfth Night?