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We three kings of Orient are ...

Giotto_-_Scrovegni_-_-18-_-_Adoration_of_the_Magi%5B1%5D.jpg On Sunday's homily, the pastor of my church talked about how the Epiphany for much of the world has become an "afterthought" of the Christmas season. The tree and holiday lights have been put away and the kids are back to school but the season is not over yet. The Three Wise Men are on their way, following a star and bringing gifts to the Newborn King. In many parts of the Christian world, gifts are exchanged on January 6 and traditional cakes are baked to celebrate the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem.

In Spain, a sweet bread in the shape of a wreath known as Roscón de Reyes is bought or baked and eaten on the eve of the feast or on January 6. Inside the roscón there is a small figurine of a baby and a dry bean. The lucky one who gets the figurine is crowned king and whoever gets the bean has to pay the cost of the cake to the person that bought it. A similar tradition exists in Mexico and France.

In Puerto Rico, the feast of the Epiphany is the day the children traditionally receive their Christmas presents. On the eve of the Epiphany, children would gather grass or hay and put it inside a box, preferably a shoe box and place it under the bed. In the morning the grass is gone and replaced with unwrapped gifts left by the Three Kings. In Mexico, children put their shoes under the bed instead of a shoebox along with a note to the Kings. In Spain, the shoes are left out in the balcony and in Italy the Befana, a witch, brings stocking full of sweets or fills the socks left by the children.

The Three Wise Men are a very important element of Puerto Rican folklore. They are admired and much loved by the children and are very popular subject matter for craftsmen and artists. Last August, Annie blogged about two beautiful lithographs that she bought many years ago in Old San Juan. The subject matter of the lithos is the Three Kings. On my comments I told Annie that her blog entry had brought back many happy childhood memories from that special day when as a child I received presents from the Magi. To this day, we still celebrate the Epiphany with presents to our grown children although we don't expect them to put any grass in a shoe box. The important thing is to keep the tradition alive and for them to pass it on to their own children.

I have a very small collection of the Three Kings handcrafts made by Puerto Rican artisans. This carving was made by a santero — a craftsman that works exclusively with wood, carving religious figures. The carved figures are known as santos and this one was made in 1988 by Rivero de Orta.

A present from my brother-in-law, the three figures are made in glass by Vilma Jové. I love looking at the one-eyed Kings and find them quite whimsical.

This plate is part of a six plate collection that my dad brought from Puerto Rico about 30 years ago.

Comments (8)

Wow! I love your Kings! The carvings are so beautiful and the glass ones are very cool. Love that plate too.

I'm glad you are keeping the tradition alive with your kids. Do you save all your presents for Epiphany or do you do some on Christmas too?

Annie, we split the presents between Christmas and the Epiphany with the majority of the gifts being received on Dec. 25. The Epiphany gifts are the equivalent to the presents American kids find in their stockings. Nothing big or expensive because the Magi had to travel from far away ... ;)

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Happy New Year Maria! I love reading this post. As Annie already mentioned, I also think it is wonderful that you are passing on the traditions from your childhood on to your children to be passed on to their own children. I really enjoyed reading about the traditions in Spain and Puerto Rico. And I also love your three Kings collection!

Thanks for this wonderful post Maria!

Happy New Year to you too, Kathy! I'm so glad to see you back. You were missed.

What a great collection! The glass ones are my favorite.

I remember hearing about Epiphany only because I had a friend born on January 6th, but never learned about at Sunday School (Catholic school held on Saturdays but for some reason called Sunday School).

I enjoyed reading about how Epiphany is celebrated in different countries and how you celebrated it with your family. Oh, and that was one of my favorite songs when I was little.

Girasoli, I never went to Sunday School. We didn't have it in Puerto Rico, maybe because most of the children went to Catholic School.


Maria, what a wonderful post! I've always loved the Magi. The image at the beginning of your post is gorgeous - Giotto? And love your own Three Kings, the one-eyed ones are so unique! (I'm behind on my blog readings but thought would take a quick peek when had a few minutes between meetings...I better get back to work though. Will have to catch up on the rest this evening.)
Hugs to you!

Anne, yes, it's Giotto's Adoration of the Magi in the Cappella Scrovegni. In hindsight, I should have posted a larger picture of this masterpiece.

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