Every morning on January 5, LHS junior Christian Ortiz can expect to find a number of gifts under his bed when he wakes up. It’s Three Kings Day: a Catholic festivity celebrated by many Spanish-speaking countries, where it’s referred to as “El Día de Los Reyes.” Parents gift their children presents on the night of January 4th, similar to how the Biblical Three Kings (Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar) brought gifts of myrrh and frankincense (fragrant gum resins used in medicine, perfumes, and incense), and gold to baby Jesus in Bethlehem.
Then, Ortiz’s family hosts a dinner with his aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents and they eat a Puerto Rican dish called arroz con gandules (rice with chickpeas). “It’s a day where everyone can get together and celebrate the Three Kings’ journey,” Ortiz explained. Both of his parents immigrated from Puerto Rico: his mother when she was 12, and his father when he was only one year old.
But besides Three Kings Day, there’s another time of the year that is very important: Hispanic Heritage Month, a national holiday that recently occured from September 15th to October 15th. During this month, people pay tribute to and educate themselves and others on the history and culture of Hispanic Americans that enriched the United States’ society.
Karla Liard is a senior at LHS and also celebrates Three Kings Day with her Puerto Rican father. She sees it as an “extended Christmas that we celebrate, but not for religious reasons.” Liard said she takes the day off from school, her family leaves their Christmas tree up and “instead of the typical milk and cookies for Santa, we leave out lettuce and water for the camels that the Three Kings rode on.”
For Three Kings Day, LHS sophomore Shyla Ruiz added that her close family has a dinner where they “drink ponche [Mexican fruit punch] and have tamales [a small steamed cake made from corn], rice, beans, and empanadas [fried or baked croissant-like pastries with sweet or savory fillings].” Additionally, she celebrates Children’s Day or El Día del Niño,
a Mexican national holiday on April 30th that originated in the 1920s. “We normally go out and get to pick some things and then go out for dinner. It’s like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, where special gifts are given and the day is all about the kids,” Ruiz explained.
Despite Hispanics making up only 7% of the population at LHS (nationally Hispanics make up almost 19% of the population), there is a wide variety of other Hispanic holidays they celebrate such as Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on November 1 or Semana Santa (Holy Week) during Easter. Hispanic Heritage Month’s purpose is to make people aware of these holidays as well as the magnificent contributions to society from Hispanics that occur each and every day.