Three Kings Day (or Epiphany Day), was never something I celebrated at home in the States. In fact, I didn’t even know the date (every January 6th) of Three Kings Day before coming to Peru. It is a holy day for Christians that represents the journey made by the three wise men to visit sweet baby Jesus in the manger to offer gifts of myrrh, gold, and frankincense (a hot on the market and very en vogue back then). This day marks the official end of the Christmas season and the beginning of the Carnival season aka party time before its time to get right with the Lord for Lent.
In Peru, Three Kings Day is actually known as Bajada de los Reyes Magos. And did ya’ll know that Lima is called The City of Kings because its was founded on Epiphany Day, January 6, 1535? The day was also an official holiday until around 40 years ago. It was often celebrated by friends and family who got together for a meal and to officially take down the Nativity Scene. Everyone who is participating has to take at least one piece from the scene and in some locations, you even have to replace that piece with money. The money then goes to the owner of the Nativty to be used to pay for food, drinks, and making the Nativity for the following year. Additionally, gifts (commemorating the gifts that the Wise Men brought Jesus) are often exchanged on this day instead of on Christmas like we do in the States.
Now to be real with ya’ll, my host family didn’t celebrate nor were there any celebrations in my town. So to this day, I have yet to celebrate Three Kings in any official capacity but I will say this — I had been waiting for a care package from home for the past month and a half. It was sent in November and was supposed to be here in time for Christmas. It could have been the postal strike here in Peru or it could have been that it was naturally running on la hora peruana but it wasn’t here in time for Christmas. I would definitely be lying if I said I wasn’t bummed that I wasn’t able to have a a special Christmas package arrive. So I continued to
wait and continued to get discouraged every time I stopped in the Serpost office and was told that nothing had come for me. Then yesterday, after having coconut cremolodas (heaven on earth especially on a hot Bagua day) and arroz con leche (a rice pudding) at my favorite little spot off the plaza, another volunteer called me saying she was at the was at the Serpost office picking up her own package when she saw my name on the list of packages that came in that day. It was so nice to get a little something from home – not to mention one more week without it and my hair product situation would have been SOL. Anyway, when I got back to the crib and realized it was Three Kings Day, I figured that my package’s late arrival was the universe’s way of saving the gift exchange tradition for the Epiphany and wishing me a Merry Bajada de los Reyes Magos.
Happy first day of Carnival season ya’ll. Don’t go too crazy.