There was plenty of food and fun to celebrate Three Kings Day at the Catholic Youth Center's fifth annual celebration Sunday afternoon. Epiphany, called "El dia de los Reyes" or "Three Kings Day," is celebrated by the Latin American community on Jan. 6 with festivities, food and gifts. The tradition recalls the day the three magi arrived in Bethlehem and presented baby Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Nearly 200 people enjoyed Sunday's event, which was open to the community. Alma McGarry, Latino community chairwoman for the Catholic Youth Center, said the menu included authentic dishes from Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Mexico and Guatemala, as well as hot dogs.
In addition to a re-enactment of the Three Kings story, there was music provided by Luis Avila of LDA DJ & Sound, a candy-filled pinata and face painting for the children and an appearance by Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders mascot Champ.
For 8-year-old Jealya Carino of Wilkes-Barre, the best part was "when I got the prize," she said, displaying the tea set and toy horses she won in the children's raffle.
Lisette Tapia of Wilkes-Barre said her Christmas tree is still up, and her two children, Jazmyn Espinoza, 4, and Izaiah Espinoza, 2, were excited to wake up and find presents under it on Sunday.
"In Mexico, we know about Santa Claus, but we wait until Jan. 6 to give gifts to the kids," she said.
The three magi -- who represented Europe, Arabia and Africa -- arrived via horse, camel and elephant. Like leaving goodies out for Santa and his reindeer on Christmas Eve, on the night before Three Kings Day, children leave food out for the animals the kings rode in on, Tapia said.
After the party at the Catholic Youth Center, Tapia planned to share "Rosca de Reyes," a special bread with a baby Jesus figurine baked in it, with relatives. Whoever gets the piece with the little plastic baby Jesus has to provide the food for the Dia de la Candelaria on Feb. 2. That's a feast day celebrating the presentation of the child Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem.
American-born Tapia is proud of her heritage -- her parents are from Mexico City -- and is teaching Jazmyn and Izaiah about it in the hopes they will, in turn, pass it on to their own children someday. It's important for the young people to learn about their culture, to know where they came from.
"We're here. We're not in our country anymore," Tapia said. "If we don't teach them, they'll forget."
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