How the Three Kings Came to Be

A Look at Puerto Rico’s Second Christmas

By Adjanni Ramos; December 30, 2019

There’s truly nothing like the holiday seasons. The Christmas music, the holiday food, exchanging gifts, unless one is going through a serious case of “Grinch Syndrome” there is no real reason to hate the holidays seeing as how its intention is to bring cheer towards the end of a year. In fact a lot of people (mostly kids) wish Christmas came more than once a year. Some might argue if Christmas came twice a year, then whatever makes Christmas so special would disappear. But the truth is that there is one place where Christmas does come twice a year: Puerto Rico. 

In Puerto Rico, the time considered as Christmas or Navidad does not end on the 26th of December. On the contrary, it actually lasts all the way till January 6th of the next year in what is both locally and internationally recognized as Día de los Reyes, or Three Kings Day. 

During this special holiday people celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and the miracles that happened after his birth. One of which was the appearance of the Star of Bethlehem, which guided the Wise Men. Also known as the Three Kings or Magi, they went to the stable where Christ was born and delivered unto him three gifts. It’s noteworthy to point out that according to the 

(A Life Size Recreation of the Christmas Manger; Three Kings visiting Christ)

The holiday is known as Día de Los Reyes or Three Kings Day throughout Latin America and Spain. It is recognized and celebrated in more countries than Christmas under other names, most commonly Epiphany. It’s basically celebrated anywhere the catholic church has a big influence. But because the United States has such a high protestant influence, it’s not celebrated or even recognized. 

In Puerto Rico Three Kings Day is older than Christmas, as it was a tradition brought over when Spain still occupied the island. During this holiday, towns still re-enact the arrival of the three kings to the stable and hand out gifts for children. This influence of this holiday is so strong that all traditional Puerto Rican Christmas carols are about and were made for Three Kings Day, and not Santa Clause or Christmas Day. 

Three Kings Day has a Three Kings Eve, much like Christmas has a Christmas Eve, in which children fill old shoe-boxes with grass for the horses of the Three Kings. Very much like children leaving cookies for Saint Nick. The Next morning on January 6th, Puerto Rican children wake to find gifts under the Christmas tree left over from a week and a half before.

In some towns in Puerto Rico, where poverty levels are higher and household income is lower, local churches will work with the local governments to have Three Kings show up at the town’s square on Three Kings Day to hand out free toys and gifts to the local kids and families. 

It is important to note that although Christmas and Three Kings Day are both celebrated in Puerto Rico – something most countries don’t do – Three Kings Day has a higher religious meaning, making it both the culmination and the end of the Holiday season on the island territory. So why do people in Puerto Rico celebrate Christmas twice, so to speak? Well, because they can. Puerto Rico is still the United States of America, and American influence is clear for anyone who visits Puerto Rico, but here is still a simultaneous presence of Spanish Puerto Rico on the island, truly making Puerto Rico one of the most unique hot-pots in the United States. 

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