Dia de Reyes: Three Kings Day in Argentina
The night of January 5th is an especially exciting night for most Argentinean children. Before going to bed, they place a pair of shoes, a bowl of water, some grass and (usually day old) bread under the Christmas tree. Have children gone bonkers in this South American country? Absolutely not.
January 6th is the Christian feast of Epiphany -Día de Reyes-, which commemorates the visit of the three Magi (or Wise Men) to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem. According to tradition, they brought presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Nowadays, it is celebrated by giving children presents.
As a child, I was told that if I was a good girl, the Magi- Reyes Magos – would bring me presents too. My siblings and I would leave the water and grass for the camels and bread for the Magi (presumably, they got hungry and thirsty crossing the desert overnight) and go to bed. Sometime during the night, the Magi left us presents. I would strain my ears trying to catch the faintest sound, or even go downstairs, where the Christmas tree was, to check whether there were any tell-tale signs of their arrival. I never saw or heard anything… The next morning, we would jump out of bed and rush to open our gifts*.
One more tradition we borrowed from the Spaniards is that of the rosca de Reyes (but they call it roscón). It is a ring-shaped cake lathered in custard and sprinkled with candied fruit.
Traditionally, Día de Reyes is also when people put away Christmas trees and decorations until the following year.
My gift to you is this traditional villancico, or carol, composed by Ariel Ramirez and sung by Mercedes Sosa, two amazing folk music artists: Los Reyes Magos.
* I was terribly disappointed to learn that it was our parents and not the Magi who left the presents.