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.

Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi: Adoration of the Magi.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Photograph: Alexander R. Pruss

Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi: Adoration of the Magi. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Photograph: Alexander R. Pruss

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.

Read more:
A very Argentinean Christmas
New Year celebrations in Portugal
Boboteaza (Epiphany in Romania)

About the author

Ana Astri-O'Reilly
Ana Astri-O’Reilly is from Argentina, where she lived until five years ago. She currently lives in Dallas, USA with her British husband, but they move a lot. Previously a translator and English and Spanish teacher, Ana first started writing to share her experiences and adventures with friends and family. She speaks Spanish, English and a smattering of Portuguese.
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7 Comments

  • I enjoyed so much to read this post :-) It’s like a kind of magic :-) specially ” My siblings and I would leave the water and grass for the camels and bread for the Magi …”.
    We also celebrate Dia de Reis, but without presents. We eat Bolo Rei and pomegranate and also put away the Christmas tree and decorations.
    It was very nice to read this post :-) Thank you!

  • Awww Sandra! I’m glad you enjoyed this post :)

  • Epiphany in the UK is just a bit sad because we just put away the decorations – there is no celebration. When I was at school it always seemed to coincide with going back to school after the holidays as well.

    Do Argentinean children get two lots of presents then? One at Christmas and one on Dia de Reyes?

  • Yes, Liz, children get two sets of presents :) :) :)

  • hmmm, lucky for them! I loved the music by the way. Thanks!

  • Katrina

    What a sweet post! I am from the USA but my grandmother is from Uruguay and my father mostly grew up there. Here we celebrate Dia de Reyes with eating all the food we miss from Uruguay; empanadas, macitas y alfajores! I am still thinking of what to do with my kids (ages 3 y 1) since they speak Spanish and I try and get latino culture to them when possible, but since I don’t tell them Santa is real, I don’t think I should tell them los reyes are real! What to do…

    • Hi Katrina. You could tell your kids the story of the Magi anyway and see if they’re interested in following tradition. Or even create a new family tradition!