The Day of Kings (El Día de los Reyes Magos) on January 6, marks an exciting end to the Christmas season for children in Argentina.
Though Christmas in Argentina is more about food and fiesta than gift giving, the kids make out with some good loot on the Day of Kings, which marks the day of the Christian Epiphany on the twelfth day of Christmas.
The event commemorates the visit of Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar who followed a star to Bethlehem from the east to bring gifts and celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Argentina’s Catholic tradition dictates that children write a letter to the Three Wise Men (aka Kings of the Orient) with their list of wishes and then leave their shoes under the Christmas Tree or by the door on the Night of Kings (January 5, the Twelfth Night of Christmas). They also put out some water and grass for the three king’s camels before they go to bed.
On the magical morning, children who have been good all year discover that the camels ate their rations and the Three Wise Men left gifts.
In some neighborhoods, there is also a Three King’s Parade on the Day of Kings, in which the Wise Men march through in ancient-style robes accompanied by various servants, soldiers and other characters to give out toys and candy to the children.
In Argentina’s small towns and in the countryside the festivities may be more elaborate with gauchos, or Argentine cowboys, dressed up as the biblical kings riding through town on horseback.
In Buenos Aires the Three Kings visit children’s hospital wards and sometimes make an appearance at Plaza Mariano Moreno in front of the Congress building, before parading down Avenida de Mayo to the Plaza de Mayo.