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THE ORLANDO SENTINEL
Three Kings Day, Treasured Tradition
by Maria T. Padilla
January 2, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All Rights Reserved.
For Orlando's Hispanic
community, the holiday season isn't over until the Three Kings
That takes place on Jan. 6, the day that, according to the
biblical story, three wise men bearing gifts for baby Jesus followed
a star to his manger.
In Hispanic countries, Three Kings Day marks the climax of
the holiday season, the day when children receive the most gifts.
But the jolly old man in the red suit is crowding out the Three
Kings, not only in the United States but in many Spanish-speaking
countries as well. In Spain, for instance, there is worry that
"Papa Noel" is supplanting the Three Kings.
"We cannot let this tradition decline," said Monserrate
Vargas, secretary of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center of Florida.
Not to worry. Evidence is mounting that Hispanics in the United
States increasingly are observing Three Kings Day.
Saturday, the Three Kings will give out gifts in Downey Park
at East Colonial Drive and Dean Road in east Orlando. The event
will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is co-sponsored by First American
Capital Foundation, the Florida Puerto Rican Cultural Center,
Casa de Puerto Rico and Orange County.
Coordinator Bill Negron said he expects between 300 and 500
children to attend the celebration, which is the first of its
kind here and one Negron hopes to make an annual tradition.
"It's a good way to teach our culture to other people
in the community," said Negron. In Puerto Rico, churches
and groups often sponsor gift-bearing visits by the Three Kings
in island towns. Miami's Cuban community has scheduled its 27th
annual Three Kings parade Jan. 9 in Little Havana. As many as
500,000 have attended in the past.
Hispanic grocers in Orlando say their sales indicate Hispanics
observe Three Kings Day.
In the non-Hispanic community, holiday sales usually drop significantly
But Ramon Sanchez, owner of La Placita No. 2 grocery on Oak
Ridge Road in south Orlando, doesn't see a sharp drop in business.
"Sales go down minimally," Sanchez said. "There
are a lot of Hispanics here who celebrate Three Kings with their
Jose Francisco Roman, owner of Plaza Gigante grocery in southeast
Orlando, agrees. "Christmas has passed for Americans, but
Hispanics can go on until octavitas," said Roman,
referring to Jan. 8, the last day of celebration for revelers.
Roman said customers are buying more traditional items, including
cider, candy, coconut milk for eggnog, and rice and pork.
Puerto Ricans, who make up half of Central Florida's Hispanics,
are the likeliest to celebrate, said Sanchez, who is from the
But Three Kings Day is not just for Hispanics.
The holiday also is celebrated as far away as the Philippines
and France. The French bake a cake with a surprise inside, a tradition
also maintained by Mexicans and Spaniards. In the Philippines,
people display star lanterns on their windows.
"The important thing is to maintain the culture,"