In Puerto Rico, the holiday season does not end on Christmas Day, it continues into January. We call it “Día de Reyes”, but it is officially called “Día de Los Tres Reyes Magos”. Three Kings Day, or Epiphany, is a religious holiday on January 6 that commemorates the visit of three Wise Men to baby Jesus.
Because of our strong Spanish heritage, Día de Reyes has always been bigger than Christmas, in terms of celebrations. We have always celebrated the birth of Jesus on December 25, but it wasn’t until less than a century ago that we began celebrating a more Americanized Christmas, including Santa Claus.
On the eve of Three Kings Day, it is tradition for children to place grass in a shoebox for the camels to eat after their journey. The box may be placed under the bed, just outside the bedroom door, or under the Christmas tree. The next morning, the children can find presents and/or candy from the Wise Men.
Puerto Ricans celebrate Día de Reyes with presents, traditional Puerto Rican food, music, family gatherings and parades. During parades, people flood the streets to collect presents from the three wise men riding on camels.
My son showing off his shoebox with grass, back in 2015 when he was 9 years old.
The largest celebration in Puerto Rico happens in Juana Díaz, a town in the south of the island. The Wise Men arrive either by foot or on their camels (horses, actually) during a huge parade through the town, with food, music, presents, and a symbolic ceremony with baby Jesus.