COVID-19 surges as a coup anniversary tarnishes Three Kings Day

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Cuban-American Miguel Pérez—a columnist, professor, and former chair of the department of journalism and media studies at Lehman College, City University of New York—wrote a heartfelt opinion piece about Jan. 6 for Insider NJ.

Santa Claus did not come to my house. Like most other children in Latin America and Spain, I grew up receiving overnight gifts not from Santa on Christmas Day, but from the same Three Kings who visited the Baby Jesus in a Bethlehem manger. And it was on January 6, according to the Bible, the 12th day of Christmas — the day Christians celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany[…]

For those of us who cherish Three Kings Day, watching those rampaging lunatics on television last year was traumatic. We had even one more reason to see it as one of the most shameful days in American history. They were desecrating our holiday! […]

But in the news nowadays, even on the Spanish-language stations, when they say “January 6,” instead of images of children rejoicing as they plan to receive the Three Wise Men, they show us images of hundreds of violent savages – traitors claiming to be patriots – assaulting the U.S. Capitol. Instead of a manger and the Baby Jesus, and the peace that it brings to our souls, they show us violent efforts to disrupt the peace secured by our democracy. The news media has made January 6 synonymous with the insurrection!

I don’t blame Pérez for being distraught. A holiday that symbolizes the joy surrounding the birth of the baby Jesus and the spirit of giving has been desecrated. And it’s been desecrated by ugly and violent traitors who claim to be Christians, who are the antithesis of everything Jesus and the Three Wise Men represent.   

I grew up with Puerto Rican relatives and friends celebrating Los Reyes Magos, which I’ve written about here both in 2018 and in 2019. This year, I am going to gather with a small group of double-vaxxed, boostered and pre-tested Puerto Rican friends. We’ll exchange gifts and eat traditional foods like pernil (roast pork shoulder), arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), pasteles, tembleque (coconut pudding), and arroz con dulce (sweet rice pudding )

Sadly, due to the rapid spread of the omicron variant on the island, Puerto Rico’s traditional parades and church services have either been canceled, or severely restricted.

In Puerto Rico, even  Juana Díaz—called The town of the Three Kings”which has long been the heart of Three Kings Day on the island, has modified traditional celebrations. 

“The mayor of Juana Díaz, Ramón Hernández Torres, together with the Consejo Pro Festejos de Reyes, chaired by Willie John Santiago, reported on Wednesday the cancellation of face-to-face activities related to the traditional Feast of the Magi of Juana Díaz as a result of the rise in infections of covid-19.”

Last year’s parade in Juana Díaz was also canceled, so here’s some video from 2020, for an idea of what it is normally like.

Though many Three Kings celebrations are being held virtually this year, I’m sure that many children will still be receiving gifts, so long as they didn’t forget one key tradition.

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¡Feliz día de los Reyes Magos!

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