Three Kings Day, also known as the Epiphany, is a holiday that carries as much importance as Christmas in the Dominican Republic, with children receiving gifts and adults getting time off to celebrate. It is a time spent with family feasting and exchanging gifts, wrapping up the holiday season.
Biblically, Three Kings Day commemorates the day that the three wise men, Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, visited baby Jesus after travelling across the desert for twelve days bringing him prophetic gifts. The first gift, Gold, was given because Jesus was to be the King of Jews. The second gift was Frankincense, an incense burned in churches, to represent the divine nature of Jesus and foreshadow his role as the Son of God whom people would come to worship. The third and final gift was Myrrh, a scented resin used to embalm dead bodies, which represented that despite his divine nature, Jesus would eventually die. These gifts were very important because they foretold the fate of baby Jesus’s life, therefore the journey and arrival of the three wise men is celebrated with as much importance as Christmas.
Here, in the Dominican Republic, there are many traditions that go along with Three Kings Day. Leading up to the holiday, children write letters to the Kings asking for gifts, much like letters to Santa. The night before the Kings anticipated arrival, children collect and leave bundles of grass out to feed the camels that the three kings ride on and they leave out candy and cookies for the three Kings to enjoy while they are delivering presents. These traditions are similar to leaving carrots for reindeer and cookies and milk for Santa. In the morning, children wake up early to open their gifts brought to them by the Three Kings and the rest of the day is spent with family eating, playing, and celebrating the end of the holiday season.
Three Kings Day is celebrated in many different cultures around the world with distinct feasts, parades, parties and traditions unique to each individual place, but one thing they all have in common is the importance of acknowledging this important day in biblical history.
* This article has been contributed by Gallagher Foxworthy. Pictures from Fundación MIR Christmas Live Nativity presentation.