Image: Flickr / cliff1066™
Fond Memories of Three Kings Day
Thinking about my childhood and revisiting the home where I grew up always reminds me of how important is for a child to be loved and feel secure in the environment he lives in. Today, my adult eyes realize how little we had and at the same time how fortunate we were. “All You Need Is Love,” wrote John Lennon. He was so right.
In times when my mother, Amparo, had to get really creative to prepare the three meals of the day out of the same corn flour, we still had joy on Three Kings Day. That’s why I’m sure a parent’s love can create magic for children on any given day, regardless of how difficult the reality is.
Now, as I look back, knowing how hard things were then, is like looking behind the scenes of a wonderful movie that transported me through years of happiness. My father usually waited until after midnight on January 5th because at that time most stores had specials since the majority of families had already bought toys for their children.
That’s why I want to share with you how I experienced Three Kings Day throughout all my childhood. Santo Domingo was, and still is, a huge party club all Christmas long. Beginning mid-November even as a kid I could feel that the season had started, with the flow of Dominicans from la diáspora coming back to spend the season with their families.
For us kids, it was a time to get away with staying up late and eating more sweets than usual; however, nothing of the parties and dinners in the adult world compared to the feeling of anticipation we all had as January 6th neared. The end of the year was a lot of fun with the fireworks and all, but more than that, it was the final wait until our special day.
Preparing for Three Kings Day
On January 5th, we prepared to receive those fabulous Kings who once took gifts to baby Jesus and now would do gift giving for all children in the world. Since their journey was long, we used to search for grass for their hungry camels, but not from our front yard, we had to find a special kind that the camels preferred.
My house was at the bottom of a hill and the main road was at the top of it, so we would go with my dad or mamá Amparo to pickup some wild grass for the three camels to eat. Then, we had to think of the Kings themselves who would be thirsty after riding on those camels for so long, so we set out three glasses of water. We also got mentas verdes (hard candy) and cookies for them to eat and then we’d put those things below our beds.
After hearing so many times the story of the Three Kings, the ultimate goal for my sisters and I was to sneak a peek of them while they dropped off our gifts. January 5th was the day when we would go to bed early and “pretend” to sleep while we waited for Los Reyes Magos to arrive and catch them before they took off again. But since my father went shopping for gifts so late we would fall asleep before they arrived. Then, we would wake up and magically find a bag labeled with each our names with toys that we could cherish the whole year long.
My bag seemed so full of stuff and the smell of new made it so appealing, it was that one day when we would receive gifts. They may not have been the ones we had dreamed of, like a Barbie or the doll of the year, which we somehow knew we would not get. However, the actual toys were so pretty and new, that they really did not have to be brand name, they were mine and they were new and that was all that mattered.
I cannot begin to describe how wonderful it was to get those toys; keep in mind that I would not get any more toys the whole year. Maybe a plastic doll for my birthday, and if I was really lucky, someone other than my father would bring a present. Three Kings Day was a magical day; since in my mind it was not possible that my father was the one buying the toys, it had to be the Kings.
It’s not about ‘how much’
As an adult, I now also realize that what we got would be what most kids get nowadays here as stocking stuffers. A wooden ping-pong, a set of jacks, a plastic baby doll, a rubber ball that usually lasted less than 24 hours because it will kick a stone, break and deflate, and a couple of more things.
But they were new and they were mine and I was a happy child because I had behaved well during the previous year and the Three Kings brought me gifts. But it taught me something important. If children have love, they will be happy no matter the financial circumstances. I can attest to that. That’s why Three Kings Day brings me magical memories. Memories of a time when I had nothing and yet had everything I needed from the world.