Instead of Santa, the Three Kings “made much more sense with the Nativity scenes we had seen throughout Christmas,” said a professor who grew up in Miami.
By Gwen Aviles
Ernesto Acevedo-Muñoz still remembers the excitement of being a child in Puerto Rico, anticipating the arrival of the Three Kings on Jan. 6th.
“We’d pick up grass for the camels to eat in exchange for gifts,” Acevedo-Muñoz, now a professor in University of Colorado-Boulder’s Department of Cinematic Studies and Moving Image Arts, said. “Then we’d put in a box and leave it under our Christmas tree, and our parents would come and take the grass to give us the illusion that the Three Wise Men came.”
For Acevedo-Muñoz, picking the grass on the eve of Three Kings Day was “the most memorable practice” of the holiday.
Though the holiday’s traditions vary among cultures and nationalities, many Latino families across the U.S. are maintaining a tradition popular in Spain and Latin American countries. Epiphany commemorates the biblical story of the birth of Jesus Christ. According to the gospel of Matthew, three Magi, or Wise Men —Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar —followed a star across the desert for 12 days to Bethlehem to find the baby Jesus and bring him gifts.
“My most vivid memories were the times my family went to the parade on 8th street [Calle Ocho in Miami],” said Lucia Cantero, whose family is from Spain. “It was a brightly colored and aesthetic procession and portrayal of the biblical story of the Epiphany.”