Three Kings Day.

Friday, January 7, 2011

In December, parents visited my daughter's preschool class to talk about family holiday traditions.  During one of the first visits, Big Sister learned about Three Kings Day.  Ever since, she has insisted that we put our shoes outside on the night of January 6, so the three wise kings can fill them with goodies.  We hoped she'd forget about it (isn't filled stockings enough; do we really need our shoes filled too?).  But she did not forget.  She told us exactly what was going to happen.  After all, they had put their shoes in the school hallway during naptime, and the three wise kings put goodies in their shoes then.  Of course they would visit our home!

I don't know much about Three Kings Day, but we indulged her.  We ignored the parts about putting grass or paper in the shoes, and we didn't write the kings any notes, as they had at school.  We did heed the warning that we must put out one shoe only, or the kings will think we are greedy and will not give us any goodies.  We gathered shoes quickly and threw them out on the doormat before going to bed.  Big Sister, being quite smart, chose her largest shoe, a boot.  Little Brother chose his brightest shoe (and, because he is quite helpful, he also chose Mr. Great's shoe).  I didn't stop to consider that I would share this with the world, so I most certainly did not select my cutest shoe.  

The kids woke early this morning.  No doubt the anticipation had interfered with our morning slumber.  Had the kings come?  

Yes!  You can't see everything here -- it was quite cold and I photographed quickly -- but even Mr. Great (the doubter) got some goodies in his shoe.

This morning I did a little research on Three Kings Day and the shoe tradition.  Epiphany -- Twelfth Night -- is when Christ was visited by the Three Wise Men, and his divinity was revealed to the world (see Matthew 2:1-12).  It is observed on January 6 (or sometimes the Sunday after) as Christian feast day, the end of the Christmas season.  Celebrations take different forms in different cultures and parts of the world.  Some involve shoes or boxes, as ours did.  Some involve Three Kings Bread or Cake (Rosca de Reyes), which may have a tiny baby baked into it to symbolizing Jesus.

As far as I can tell, the shoe tradition has Hispanic origins.  On Dia de Reyes, children collect grass or straw in boxes or shoes, which they place on the porch, under their beds, or under the Christmas tree.  Some also leave water in a bowl or other container.  Legend holds that the Magi, tired from their long travels across the world, will come in the middle of the night and feed their weary camels the grass and water (though Big Big Sister has determined that it is not practical to walk all over the world in one night on camels, so the three wise kings must use cars and maybe planes).  To show their gratitude, the three wise kings leave small gifts for the children.  In some cultures, the children write a note to the kings, including a wish list.  They then receive their gifts the next morning from the kings, rather than on Christmas from Santa Claus.

I don't know if the Three Kings Day shoe ritual will become on of our family traditions, but it is a fun way to mark the end of the Christmas season.  Now we can take down the Christmas tree and decorations.  After all, Valentine's Day is just around the corner.

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