Let's celebrate the day of the Three Wise Men

Friday, Dec. 23, 2011
Let's celebrate the day of the Three Wise Men + Enlarge
By Laura Vallejo
Intermountain Catholic

SALT LAKE CITY - After New Year’s Day, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany, which traditionally is celebrated on Jan. 6.

Most of the Hispanic world celebrates the feast as El Día De Reyes, (the Day of Kings) remembering the three wise men who followed the star to Bethlehem and arrived at the manger bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the baby Jesus.

Three wise men, or magi as they also are known, aren’t named in the Bible but tradition has given them the names Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar.

In the Hispanic celebration of the feast, on the night of Jan. 5, the figurines of the three wise men are added to the nativity scene. Before going to bed the children place their old shoes under their bed or in the living room, where the wise men will leave them their presents. Some also place hay and a bucket with water outside the house for the animals, and even some cookies and milk for Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar.

"We always celebrate this day with our kids; I simply love this celebration," said Marina Cruz, a parishioner from the Cathedral of the Madeleine who always has a special meal to celebrate the kings.

The Merienda de Reyes (picnic of kings) is a multicultural event. The Spaniards brought the tradition of celebrating the Epiphany and sharing rosca (a bagel-type bread) to the New World. The rosca is served along with tamales and hot chocolate.

Corn, from which the tamales are made, and chocolate came from the native peoples of the New World.

Hidden inside the rosca is a plastic figurine of the baby Jesus, symbolizing the need to find a secure place where Jesus could be born, a place where King Herod would not find Him.

During the meal, each person cuts a slice of the rosca. The knife symbolizes the danger that the Baby Jesus was in. One by one the guests inspect their slice, hoping they didn’t get the figurine.

Whoever gets the baby figurine becomes the host of a new celebration on Feb. 2, Candelaria or Candlemas Day, and also buys new clothing for the Baby Jesus of the Nativity scene.

In the Catholic Church, Candlemas Day celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.

"I love rosca; I am always waiting for this season so I can eat some," said Fernando Ruiz, Our Lady of Guadalupe parishioner.

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