The Christmas season is coming to an end in the Dominican Republic. The season’s last holiday, Three Kings Day or Epiphany Day will be celebrated this weekend on January 6. So we would like to conclude our special series of Christmas blog posts with an overview of Dominican traditions related to Three Kings Day.
To begin with, Three Kings Day is an official public holiday in the Dominican Republic. Though the tradition to celebrate this day is common for other countries too, normally it isn’t a national day-off. Whereas with the Dominican Republic it actually seems fair as there are no long Christmas vacation like in the USA or Europe. However, this year Three Kings Day falls on Sunday so it coincides with a weekend.
Three Kings Day is almost as important as Christmas for Dominicans. In general, the concept of family is sacred in the Latin America countries. People take family unity and thus celebrations very seriously. On Three Kings Day families spend time together feasting and exchanging gifts. Children are especially excited about this holiday because they are normally in the center of celebration. Parents make their kids gifts, take them to an adventure park, movie theater, entertainment center and alike. That also explains why adults don’t work on Epiphany Day in the Dominican Republic. It gives them free time to dedicate to their children.
What are the origins?
Before we start looking into the traditions, it’s important to understand the holiday’s origins. Three Kings Day is celebrated in commemoration of the Wise Men and the gifts they delivered to Baby Jesus. According to the biblical story, the Wise Men or Kings traveled a desert guided by a star to worship the newly born Christ and offer him gifts recognizing him as the future king of Jews.
Thus, the tradition for Three Kings Day was to leave cigarettes, refreshment and letter for the Kings and some grass and water for the camels under the kid’s bed. These offerings are supposed to gain the favor of the Kings. As a result, they would leave the gift the kid is asking for in the letter. Those who have misbehaved during the year would receive a box of coal.
However, nowadays children perfectly understand that gifts come from their parents rather than from the Magic Kings. That’s why it’s rare to see kids write a letter to the Kings or keep offering under the bed. It’s more common nowadays that parents go to a toy store together with their kids and choose the desired gifts. Charity actions are also usual on Three Kings Day. Charity organizations and volunteers raise funds or collect toys to offer to underprivileged children and orphans.
Since Three Kings Day marks the end of the Christmas season, it’s a day when decorations are normally taken down. It’s also when supermarkets put big discounts on the remaining stock of fairy lights and Christmas items. It’s the best time to buy decorations for the next Christmas season.