Today is the feast of the Epiphany, or as we call it in Miami, el dia de los reyes magos — the feast of the three wise men.
This is the day Christians celebrate the revelation “of God the son as human in Christ.” In Western Christianity, the feast commemorates the visit of the Magi to the Christ child bearing gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh. According to the Gospel of Matthew, the three kings or wisemen came from the east to worship the “king of the jews.” The word magi, plural for magus, suggests the three men were astrologers, magicians, or Zoroastrianism practitioners. Some consider them to be sorcerers or travelers who journeyed West from as far as China; others hold them to venture from Persia and Africa. As part of their religion, these men paid particular attention to the stars and gained an international reputation for astrology, which was at that time highly regarded as a science. Their religious practices and use of astrology caused derivatives of the term magi to be applied to the occult in general and led to the English term magic, although Zoroastrianism was in fact strongly opposed to sorcery.
Regardless of their point of origin, or religious affiliation, the three magi or wise men celebration is as popular — and perhaps more so — as Christmas among hispanic cultures and countries. On the morning of January 6th, children wake up to more gifts, candy, and celebrations. In Spain, parades not unlike the Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day parades are held around the country. Miami has its own parade, though it pales in comparison to anything I’ve seen in other countries. In Mexico, a rosca de reyes, or king’s cake is shared with family and friends. Eating la rosca, or cake, is supposed to bring one good luck throughout the year.
For me, the Epiphany has become a day of remembering things past. Gone are the days when toys, gifts, or presents were left for my sisters and I to open in the morning. Gone are also the days when my niece and nephews had their gifts to open, now that they are teenagers and not as nostalgic as their aunts and uncle are for their toddler days. What’s left of our celebration are my mother’s candy bags, filled with our favorite candies and some small knick-knack she finds at the dollar store that reminds her of our eccentricities. My bag usually contains peanut M&Ms and something relating to acupuncture. But the family dinners have been replaced with text messages, Facebook postings, and the occasional photo of Epiphanies of long ago.
Still, for all the memories and nostalgia, January 6th remains a magical day for me; the day after marks the official close of the holiday season. On Thursday the new year gets off to a working start, and I once again look forward to discovering and making new magical memories.