These Three Kings keep Christmas custom alive

About 30 children gathered Saturday afternoon to preserve a cultural tradition > At Los Flamboyanes, an apartment complex along La Avenida in Rochester, they shared a meal, candy and a story about El Dνa de los Reyes, Three Kings Day.

The day celebrates the arrival of the three wise men who followed a bright star to Bethlehem and brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. Three Kings Day, also known as the Feast of the Epiphany, falls on January 6 and marks the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

The holiday is typically celebrated in Puerto Rico, Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries, explained Latinas Unidas Chairwoman Daisy Rivera Algarin. For eight years, Latinas Unidas and other groups have sponsored the community celebration to keep the tradition alive among Hispanic families in the Rochester area.

“It’s important that we continue to celebrate what makes us who we are,” Rivera Algarin said. The local celebration is an opportunity to expose children to the cultural event and in “passing our heritage and culture along to our children.”

That goal is not lost on Linmarie Serrano of Rochester. On Friday night, Linmarie, said she placed a small box holding grass, for the Kings’ camels to eat, under the Christmas tree. By the time she woke Saturday morning, the box had been replaced with several Bratz dolls. Hours after her family’s celebration, Linmarie attended the community event.

Aurora Ramos, of Rochester said she likes the holiday “because it means we get to celebrate, get and give gifts.” This year, she said, she made her mother a card and a picture. “It makes you feel good when you do something for someone else,” she said. “Plus it’s neat to learn about your culture.”

As Aurora’s mother, Annette Ramos, read a story about the holiday, three wise men, portrayed by Julio Vazquez, the city’s commissioner of community development; Sgt. Carlos Garcia of the Rochester Police Department and Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Greece, entered the room carrying gifts of their own. Moments later, the men, wearing capes and crowns, distributed bags filled with candy. “It’s something we celebrate every year,” said Felix Rivera of Rochester. “The day is special because we spend it with friends and family.”