HOLYOKE – They bared gifts, food, and good will during the annual Three Kings celebration at Morgan School on Wednesday, Jan. 6.
The annual celebration, also known as El Día de los Reyes in Latin America, celebrates when the biblical Three Kings followed a bright star to the manger of the Christ child and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The Puerto Rican and Latin American community have continued the tradition in Holyoke either at home or at community events.
Area businesses and organizations donated food and gifts for the celebration that was held in the school’s cafeteria. A meal of spanish chicken with rice and beans, rolls, salad, and dessert was served.
The United States Marine Corp “Toy’s for Tots” program donated two brand new bicycles for the raffle. Families signed up for gift bags filled with toys and other items prior to the event.
Carlos Vega of Neuva Esperanza and the host of the event, moved from his native Ecuador as a child to this country. He said it is important for the community to continue the tradition of the Three Kings in the United States.
Vega said children place hay or straw underneath their beds for the camels of the Three Kings. He said the city has recognized the holiday more over the last few years.
“Our whole approach in the last five or six-years of doing this, is we’re trying to give back to the community,” said Vega. “These are residents of South Holyoke. We’ve (Neuva Esperanza) been primarily working in South Holyoke since 1982 and we want to make sure the community outreach has celebrations and to recognize those celebrations.”
Volunteers from Holyoke Youth Build took on the roles of the Three Kings. Victor Serrano, 16, Angel Rogue, 19, and Joshua Martinez, 16, donned royal costumes and escorted Carmen Figueroa, 17, who played the role of the Virgin Mary, around the cafeteria.
They passed out bags of candy to the children in attendance and handed out toys later on in the evening.
Figueroa said she did not grow up with the holiday, but wanted to volunteer anyway. She was originally scheduled to play a king. “We found another king, so I’m the Virgin Mary.”
Figueroa is currently enrolled in Holyoke Youth Build’s GED program. She and her fellow cast members took a pretest that morning at Holyoke Community College. After she completes her GED in six-month to a year, she plans to attend HCC.
The children in attendance made drawings and wrote brief letters to now Presidents Barack Obama. Most of the letter wished the president good luck and well wishes. The letters will be mailed to the White House.
A12-year-old boy wrote: “Dear Mr. Obama, Would you please lower the fuel price and diesel prices. People need gas and you could help the homeless get a good job and life. Please clean the streets of drug dealers, robbers, and bad people. We need peace.