Mechior, Gaspar And Balthazar
January 6 is Three Kings Day (Tres Reyes Magos or Epiphany). It commemorates the day the Three Kings from the East, Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar, representing Europe, Arabia and Africa, after following the star for twelve days, arrived on horse, camel and elephant, in Bethlehem to find the child in the manger and to give their symbolic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Three Kings Day is the day on which gifts are traditionally given throughout Central and South America.
Only relatively recently has globalization and commercialization brought Santa Claus and Christmas trees and gift giving on Christmas Day. Only recently has the gringo, capitalist commercial extravaganza taken hold. Before that, the Three Kings came with the gifts only on January 6, twelve days after Christmas, on the Twelfth Day of Christmas.
In Spain, Argentina, and Uruguay, children and many adults polish and leave their shoes ready for the Kings' presents before they go to bed on the 5th of January. Sweet wine, nibbles, fruit and milk are left for the Kings and their camels. In Mexico, it is traditional for children to leave their shoes on the eve of January 6 by the family nativity scene or by their beds. Also a letter with toy requests is left and sometimes the shoes are filled with hay for the camels. In Puerto Rico, it is traditional for children to fill a box with grass or hay and put it underneath their bed. In some parts of northern Mexico the shoes are left under the Christmas tree (an import from El Norte) with a letter to the Three Kings. This is analogous to children leaving mince pies or cookies and milk out for Santa Claus or Father Christmas.
If you consider the Three Kings Story from a mythic, rather than a religious perspective, it's a very important allegory about faith and instinct. The wise, eastern Kings' faithfully follow their instinct and knowledge across the desert to the place it leads them. Do they know where they were going? Are they following the signs correctly? Are they supposed to follow the star? When they reach the destination, they give their gifts to the one they find, the ones who should receive them. Is this the right person? Are these the right gifts? How do I know whether I’m doing this correctly?
I really like the story. I like to think about the kind of courage and understanding and conviction and trust one would need to play the role of one of the kings (the wise men) in the story. Would I know to follow my star? Would I understand that it was time for the journey? Would I leave immediately? Would I persist for 12 days? Would frustration, despair, fear or doubt stop my journey? Would I become distracted? Would I press on? Would I keep my focus? Would I realize when I had arrived? Would I know what gifts to give and to whom? How would I know all of these things? What an epic journey it is.
Feliz Dia de Reyes!