Celebrating El Dia De Los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings' Day) at Church


by Gladys E. Rivera

Our congregation is composed of people from many of the Latin American countries. We have people from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. Most of these countries don't celebrate December 25 as the day children receive their Christmas gifts. The children in these countries get their presents on January 6, El Día de Los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings' Day). This is the day that we remember how the wise men brought their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus.

Since children in our cities get so many presents during Christmastime, often they don't appreciate or enjoy the small gift the church could give them. For this reason and because we want the children to learn traditions native to the countries of their parents, our church for several years has decided to give out the Christmas gifts on the day the children who are back in our countries get them, January 6.

On the Sunday that is closest to January 6, we celebrate the visit of the wise men to Jesus. At one of these celebrations one year, we asked the parents to dress their children in costumes native to their countries. The countries to be represented were not limited to Latin America, but included countries from around the world. The children representing the different countries in the dramatization had an opportunity to say how they loved Jesus. Other children dressed as the wise men, Herod, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and Jesus. We ended our multicultural experience with everyone holding hands and singing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."

Often at our celebrations, including El Dia de Los Tres Reyes Magos, we have a piñata. A piñata is a container made out of papier-maché. Many times it is shaped like an animal, a person, or just a round balloon. The piñata is filled with candy and small toys. It's hung from the ceiling, and blindfolded children take turns trying to break it with a stick. When it breaks, all the goodies come down and the children run to collect as many goodies as they can carry. It is said that when a piñata is broken, and all the goodies come down, it represents blessings coming from heaven.

At our church, La Iglesia Del Redentor (Church of the Redeemer) in Hempstead, New York, we are trying to keep our homeland traditions alive. We enjoy celebrating cultural traditions that help the old remember and teach the young so that they will never forget.

Here are more ideas for a celebration:

Gladys Rivera is a member of La Iglesia Del Redentor (Church of the Redeemer) in Hempstead, New York.