Epiphany, aka ‘The Kings Day,’ means gifts and a special cake in Hispanic and Latinx cultures
by Lemuel Garcia-Arroyo, mission engagement advisor | Special to Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — In our Hispanic/Latinx cultures, the Christmas season doesn’t really end until Epiphany and the “Día de los Reyes” (The Kings Day) celebrations on Jan. 6.
Traditionally, children receive their gifts on that date symbolizing the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh that the Magi (kings or wise ones) from the East offered to the Christ child, according to the gospel narrative of Matthew 2:1–12.
In addition to giving gifts to children, families usually get together to share and taste the Rosca de Reyes (King Cake) that represents a crown like the one used, according to tradition, by the Magi. The colors and candied dried fruits resemble the jewels embedded in the crown. The circular-oval shape of the cake has been said to represent the love for God and the love of God that is infinite and knows no beginning or end.
Plastic figurines hidden inside the cake represent the infant Jesus, and this practice has been considered to be a symbol of the moment when Mary and Joseph hid the child to save him from King Herod. Elements used to decorate the cake symbolize an outer obstacle to finding the infant Jesus; for example, sweets and candied fruits make inner access difficult. Furthermore, for some, the knife that slices the cake represents the dangers that threatened the infant Jesus in his first years of life, since if he had been found by Herod he would have been killed.
Matthew’s gospel tells the story of the Magi from the East who followed a brilliant light, the Star of Bethlehem that led them to the place where the child Jesus was. They “were overwhelmed with joy” upon arriving at the humble home of the holy family and “knelt down” and worshiped the King of kings and Sovereign of all Creation who became fragile and vulnerable by incarnating as a human to dwell among us.
As we come together as families to give gifts and share a meal and enjoy the Rosca de Reyes during Epiphany and Día de los Reyes, let us be mindful of the most fragile and vulnerable in our midst. In like manner, as we do for our families and as we would do for the Christ child, let us offer our treasures to the “least of these” among us and work for their safety, integrity, dignity and well-being.
Let us also remember the words that Jesus Christ himself expressed: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). May this be our opportunity and great joy this Día de los Reyes to worship the King of kings and Sovereign of all Creation by bringing our treasures and by the offering of our lives.
The Rev. Lemuel Garcia-Arroyo is the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s mission engagement advisor for the South region. This piece was originally published on “Where Your Heart Is…A Weekly Offerings Stewardship Blog.”
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