Two CFCA projects explain the Three Kings Day celebrations taking place on Jan. 6:
In most parts of Mexico, they believe that the Three Kings, or the Magi ó traditionally Melchor, Gaspar and Baltazar ó visit the homes at dawn on Jan. 6 to leave gifts for children who have behaved well throughout the year.
Children write letters to the Magi asking for the toys they would like. This tradition is based on the Biblical passage where the three kings brought the child Jesus gold, incense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).
Children in Cuernavaca, Mexico, wait to partake of the traditional ìRosca de Reyes,î or Kings Cake ñ a bread with sugar and crystallized fruit.
Days before Jan. 6, parents buy gifts and hide them from the children so they are surprised and believe the kings brought the gifts.
On Jan. 6, the children wake up early, impatient and thrilled to find the gifts left for them. The children play with their toys all day long with their siblings and friends.
Families, offices, schools, neighbors, friends ñ in short, everyone ñ partakes of the traditional ìRosca de Reyes,î or Kings Cake, which is a bread in the shape of a ring decorated with sugar and crystallized fruit.
Various small plastic dolls about an inch and a half long are hidden inside to represent the baby Jesus.
Each person cuts his or her own piece of cake, and those who find a doll inside must bring tamales to everyone present on Feb. 2, the day when Mexican families bring the statue of baby Jesus to the church for a blessing.
According to the Bible, that is the day when Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple.
This tradition is practiced primarily in urban and suburban communities, because families in rural areas do not have the economic means to do so.
-Written and edited by: Daniel Luna, Alicia Garza Ramos and Angelica Lozada at the CFCA project in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Martha Meireles, Cuernavaca project coordinator, sent us this report.
The celebration of Three Kings Day is one of the biggest traditions in the Dominican Republic.
The celebration starts Jan. 4 when children write letters for the three kings describing the gifts they want and put them in Christmas trees, on beds or give them to their parents.
On Jan. 5 in the afternoon, children find grass, water and food, and place them under their beds for the camels and wise men to eat and drink and eat when they visit at night.
On this day, children go to bed earlier than usual. Once the children are asleep, parents place the gifts under their bed or at the Christmas tree and take the food away to let the children know the three kings visited them.
At dawn, you can hear in the street whistles, laughter and the sound of bikes, children running and playing with their toys after opening the gifts.
The celebration is extended to the community because the children visit their neighbors to show them their gifts, and the neighbors usually give them other gifts left for them by the wise men.
This tradition turns a normal day into a magical day and offers an unforgettable memory that will last all their lives.
This beautiful tradition is full of faith and love holding a magical world of fantasies uniting families and communities.
-Nelson Figueroa, CFCA project coordinator in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, sent us this report.