By: Erin Clark, Planning Director
Think the holidays are over? Not so fast! For many people in the US, the holiday season runs from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. It all swings into high gear on Black Friday, with millions of people shopping for the perfect Christmas gifts. However, for many Hispanics, the holidays last a little bit longer. Today, January 6th, marks El Día de los Reyes, also known as Three Kings Day or Epiphany, which is a popular Christian holiday celebrated throughout Latin America and Spain. Los Reyes comes twelve days after Christmas, when it is believed that the Three Wise Men arrived bearing gifts for the newborn baby Jesus.
For children of Hispanic heritage, today offers an additional opportunity to receive gifts (if you’ve been good, of course) and for adults it is a time to enjoy delicious food and drinks with loved ones.
As with most holidays, the traditions differ slightly across countries and cultures, and below are a few experiences shared by my fellow Dieste colleagues:
The holiday starts off on January 5th with parades across the country. Los Reyes (or Wise Men) ride through the cities on their camels, loaded with presents and accompanied by their royal assistants who toss sweets to the kids. At night, we celebrate with friends and family and enjoy a roscón, a delicious cake baked with a small surprise inside, along with a haba (bean). If you find the surprise, consider yourself lucky, but if you find the bean, you will have to pay for the roscón. Also at night, the kids set their shoes out and go to bed in anticipation of the Three Kings arriving to bring gifts.
In Puerto Rico Three Kings Day is so much fun! As children, the day before Los Reyes, we colored and customized small boxes (like a shoe box) and filled them with grass for the camels ridden by Los Reyes, similar to “cookies for Santa.” We left the boxes under our bed or just outside our bedroom along with a pair of shoes. By morning, the grass would be EVERYWHERE in the house (marking the path the camels took after eating), and our shoes would be filled with small presents from the “Reyes.” And just like Christmas, there was always a big family party with lechón, coquito, arroz con gandules and other holiday treats that were consumed in mass quantities.
In Colombia it is a holiday to announce the end of the holidays with festivals and carnivals where people re-enact the Three Kings’ journey to see the baby Jesus. We usually spend the day with family and friends and mostly celebrated outside. And as a kid, if we were good (or lucky) we would get three gifts!
Like other countries, kids are given small gifts on January 6th, but the star of Los Reyes in Mexico is the ‘Rosca de Reyes’ (King’s Cake), which is a sweet cake shaped round like a crown and which holds a small plastic baby figurine baked inside to represents Jesus. Traditionally, whoever finds the baby is supposed to host another party on February 2nd, known as “El Día de la Candelaria”, which officially marks the end of the holidays in Mexico. Another wonderful custom on Three Kings Day is the evening meal, when we enjoy delicious corn tamales and hot chocolate.
As children, we would leave our shoes just outside the door, along with some food for The Kings, and the next morning we found that the food was gone and there was gift in our shoes. For breakfast, we would enjoy hot chocolate (or coffee for the adults) and Rosca de Reyes, although we did not have a baby in the cake like in Mexico. This is also the day when families take down their holiday decorations.
For marketers, Three Kings Day creates an additional opportunity to appeal to an audience with an estimated $1.5 trillion spending power with culturally relevant, targeted messaging. For example, in years past, Payless ShoeSource in Puerto Rico promoted a drawing contest for children to customize their shoeboxes for the camels as a way to build stronger brand advocacy around the holiday.
For guidance on creating culturally rich messaging, look to the experts at Dieste Inc., a multicultural advertising agency located in Dallas, Texas.