Also known as The Epiphany, Three Kings Day (Día de los Reyes) is a Christian celebration that commemorates the Biblical story of the three kings who followed the star of Bethlehem to bring gifts to the Christ child. According to the Biblical story, the Three Kings – named Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar – presented the Baby Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Three Kings Day was the gift-giving time, rather than Christmas day. Just as it is common for children to leave cookies for Santa in the U.S., in some regions, it was customary for children to leave their shoes out on the night of January 5, often filling them with hay for the camels, in hopes that the Three Kings would be generous. Children would awake on January 6 to find their shoes filled with toys and gifts.
Also traditional is for families to gather together and share the Rosca de Reyes. The Rosca de Reyes is a crown-shaped sweet bread decorated with pieces of orange and lime. It is filled with nuts, figs, and cherries. Hot chocolate is traditionally served with the Rosca de Reyes.
We Three Kings
(Words and Music by John H. Hopkins, Jr., 1857)
We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.
O star of wonder, star of light,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.
Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, voices raising,
Worshiping God on high.
Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.
Glorious now behold Him arise;
King and God and sacrifice;
Sounds through the earth and skies.