What ‘El Dia de los Reyes Magos’ means to Cubans

January 6, which is the Feast of Epiphany in the Christian tradition, is also known as El Dia de los Reyes Magos for Cubans, where they celebrate the three wise men who brought gifts to the newborn Jesus. In Cuban culture, this day is as important as Christmas.

CubaNet explains why (my translation):

The Three Kings, a tradition

Every year, January 6th marks the celebration of a tradition rooted in many cultures around the world: the Feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings’ Day. Known also as the Epiphany, this celebration has deep historical and religious roots that have endured over the centuries.

The Feast of the Three Kings commemorates the visit of the Three Wise Men to the newly born Jesus, according to the biblical narrative. Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar, guided by a bright star, brought significant gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This tradition symbolizes the Magi’s adoration of the Savior and represents the manifestation of Jesus as the Messiah.

One of the most exciting and anticipated aspects of the Three Kings’ celebration is the exchange of gifts. Unlike other festivities where gifts are usually given on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the tradition of the Three Kings highlights the importance of this gesture as a symbol of generosity and joy. In many places, children place their shoes out the night before, hoping to find gifts and sweets upon waking up.

The Rosca de Reyes (or King’s Cake) is another essential element of this celebration. This round sweet bread, often decorated with candied fruits and sugar, contains a surprise inside: a figurine representing the Wise Men. Traditionally, those who find the figurine in their slice of the cake are responsible for organizing the Candlemas celebration on February 2nd, thereby completing the festive cycle.

The Feast of the Three Kings not only holds religious significance but also embodies cultural and social meaning. In many places, parades and community events are held to commemorate this date. The parades often include representations of the Three Wise Men riding on camels, accompanied by musicians and dancers who add a festive touch to the event.

In some cultures, the celebration of the Three Kings is also a time for sharing with family and friends. In many places, this day marks the end of the Christmas festivities and the beginning of a new year filled with hope.

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