Three King’s Day
On January 6th, we were invited by a family member of our lovely hosts to celebrate Reyes Magos (or Epiphany’s Day, known elsewhere are Three King’s Day). Alan and I went along for the ride and caught the tail end of the festivities, between 9ish and 10.45pm. We had missed a couple of hours but it was still a really fun experience.
I’m Puerto Rican and Mexican, and we celebrate Three King’s Day too, believing that the three kings were guided by the brightest start to Bethlehem, where they offered gifts to baby Jesus. Our tradition involves leaving a plate of hay or grass at the foot of our beds, for the camels that brought the kings, in the hope that the kings will visit us and leave a present – similar to children leaving cookies and milk for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. We always loved this tradition as children; I knew the Ecuadorian celebrations would be quite a bit different but wasn’t sure what to expect.
There were so many people! Most were dressed up in costumes and face paint. Part of the older tradition of Epiphany’s Day is that people are chosen to portray the three kings in a sort of reenactment, with one in “blackface” makeup to represent Balthazar, the king that made his journey from Africa. Most of the crowd that we saw were dressed up and had their faces painted more like Halloween costumes, so maybe it was a way of updating the outdated “blackface” custom.
Since I love makeup, I was so excited to see the different looks and costumes that people were wearing. It was a pretty crazy experience, with the huge crowd and food stands it had almost a carnival atmosphere.
We were really pleased that we decided to check it out. It was an amazing experience to be part of such a huge celebration in a place that clearly takes tradition pretty seriously – being 90% Roman Catholic, Ecuador has a rich culture of holidays and religious festivals – who knows when we’d be able to experience something like that again?
“Leave behind the demons of the past and look forward to a brand new start in 2016.” -Anonymous