The three kings are on their way to Poughkeepsie with gifts for all those kids patiently waiting their arrival since writing them letters describing how good they were this year and what gifts they want.
I thought I would take this opportunity, fresh in the new year with a personal resolution to expand my cultural horizons, mostly within the colorfully varied population of Middle Main. The epiphany, which commemorates the first two occasions on which Jesus’ divinity was revealed, seems to me an appropriate starting point for reasons beyond and more significant than my captivation by fancily designed freshly baked cakes.
Though the main festivities took place yesterday on the actual day of the Ephiphany, Poughkeepsie will continue to celebrate and commemorate with a free event at the Family Partnership Center to include traditional Latin American holiday music and dance, traditional Latin-American Christmas food, children’s activities and the Three Kings Visit (see the flyers, both English and Spanish, below for all event details!)
Despite all the Christmas hype wrapped up in the “Twelve Days of Christmas” campaign by retailers and in the media, church calendars have for centuries agreed and determined the twelve days actually begin on Christmas day and end on January 6, the Feast of Epiphany, and also known as “The Adoration of the Magi” or as the day of the Three Kings (wise men/magi): Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. The old legend of the Three Kings is based on a Bible story which says that on the night Jesus Christ was born the wise men saw and followed a very bright star to Bethlehem where they found the infant baby Jesus and presented him with fine gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (why these items you ask). It is for this reason, the typical exchanging of gifts on this date and not on Christmas day, that the children of Mexico look forward particularly to this holiday.
With Santa Clause out of the gift-giving picture, it is the three wise men, the bearers of gifts, whom the children write to and who will leave presents in or around the shoes of small children. A grand feast and celebration is held on this day to admire the occasion of Jesus' baptism and to pay homage to the three wise men.
Three Kings Day remains an important holiday for the people of Mexico, Latin America and dispersed immigrant populations throughout the US. Besides the tradition of gift-giving there is also a culinary treat specific to this day known as “Rosca de Reyes” (king’s cake) which, in addition to its aesthetic appeal and sweet delicious taste, also provides some important holiday symbolism. Its round shape stands for a king’s crown and baked inside is a small plastic figurine representing the baby Jesus. Whoever finds this trinket (hopefully without biting into it) is expected to host the next party for the celebration of ‘Dia de la Candelaria’ (Candlemass Day) which occurs every year on 2 February. The ‘hidden’ baby Jesus figurine baked inside serves to signify that the location of his birth needed to remain secret in order that his life be spared. Aware of the mystical signs indicating the new and rightful King of Jerusalem was soon to be born, the current ruler called King Herod, responded brutally and ordered the murder of all male infants recently born in Bethlehem. Well, as fate would have it, Mary and Joseph were staying in a manner, not an inn, and Herod’s minions didn’t think to look for an infant in such a location.
The delicious supper served on this special day of corn tamales and hot chocolate is another nice and very typical Mexican custom enjoyed by all who partake.
The Rosca de Reyes are freshly baked and are still being sold in a variety of sizes at Gisselle's Bakery , 546 Main St. (845) 485-8490.
This community event is free and open to the public. I’ll be in attendance, manning a table with Middle Main info. Stop by to chat, introduce yourself, or learn more about the Initiative.