On the night of January 5th, children leave their shoes by their front door, eagerly waiting for the next morning to see what goodies will be left for them. As they awaken, they rush to the door and find presents, candy bags or money inside their shoes.
Whether it’s getting gifts, sharing food, or attending Mass, Christians around the world commemorate Three Kings Day on January 6th. In spite of its historic and religious significance, some people in Boyle Heights today say the tradition is being overshadowed by Christmas.
“I didn’t do anything for this Three Kings Day””, said Óscar Velásquez as he was leaving LA County Hospital. “What I do celebrate is Christmas.”
According to Christian beliefs, the Three Kings Day or the Epiphany commemorates the visit of the Magi to the newborn baby Jesus. In some Latin American countries, gifts are given to children on this day instead of Christmas.
Many Mexican American families celebrate the holiday by sharing a rosca, a colorful ring cake that symbolizes a crown and its jewel. A plastic figurine of a baby Jesus is baked into the bread and usually the person who finds it will host a celebration on February 2nd.
Dalila López and her Mexican American family have followed that January 6 tradition for the last 10 years.
“It’s a pretty big family, it’s eight of us in total”, the 28-year-old said. “We would all cut a piece and we would always be like, ‘Oh, who got the piece, who got the piece.’ Somehow, I would always get it, but I always try to avoid it. I got it this year.”
An employee at the Wellness Center, López says that her family does not follow the tradition of serving tamales on February 2nd, which is known as the Candlemas. Instead, her family will get together for a potluck on that date.
In spite of the popularity of the rosca tradition, many Boyle Heights residents say they put more emphasis on Christmas than on the Three Kings.
“We put more time in the meal, into decorating”, says Marianna García, 27, who works in Boyle Heights.
Because of the gift-giving frenzy of the Christmas celebration, very few people now exchange gifts on January 6.
“We cut the rosca, but we don’t exchange gifts,” said María Urencio, a patient at LA County USC, “Only on the 24th”.
Boyle Height Beat reporters Leticia Bárcenas, Rony Contreras, Mohini Lavin, Samantha Olmos, Kimberly Urbina and Jacquellne Ramírez contributed to this story.