Dec 19

Passing My Culture to My Children: Three Kings Day

Author: Bri Rodriguez-Cancio

My family grew up in Cuba; I grew up in South Florida and struggled to maintain my Spanish. Now, with my own children, one of my most fervent wishes is to pass my Spanish language and culture to my children.

One such idea is Three Kings Day. In the Christian tradition, this is the day that the Three Wise Men (a.k.a. the "Magi") arrived to see the baby Jesus. This coincides with Epiphany, the Christian feast day, which is on January 6th.

In Cuba, in the 1940s, Three Kings Day was the day that children received all of their presents. Christmas was not really celebrated with gifts, and Christmas Eve (or "Noche Buena" was celebrated with a big feast with family and friends). The tradition is that children would put some grass (or in northern New Jersey climates, some dry grass or twigs/leaves, nothing fancy here) in a shoe box under their beds. The grass was for the camels to eat, that carried the Wise Men.

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Trivia: What are the names of the Wise Men? Answer: Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar.
They are the ones that bring the gifts to the children.

How this plays out in our home:

In our house, the "Wise Men" bring a few token gifts, e.g. a book, a shirt, a DVD, to the little ones. In the days leading up to January 6th, we may even entertain a stick puppet "play" about the Wise Men as an indoor, creative activity, or ask the children to write a letter or color a picture for the Wise Men (sneaky writing practice). This tradition is a win-win scenario: the kids get a few more little gifts (perhaps use the post holiday sales or go to the local discount store) and I receive the immense satisfaction that our cultural heritage is practiced, enjoyed and is perceived as "cool" by the children...

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