El Día de Los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings’ Day) represents the height of the Christmas season for many people who originate from Latin American countries and is the day that we remember how the wise men brought their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus.

Centro Hispano of Dane County traditionally hosts its annual Tres Reyes Magos celebration on a Friday, however, this year Centro has moved the annual event to a Saturday.

“This is one of my favorite events because it is so great to see Centro so packed and so full of energy at the Three Kings event,” Centro Hispano Executive Director Karen Menendez Coller tells Madison365. “Especially at the beginning of the year when it is so cold and you’re trying to get back in the swing of things – you just closed the previous year and you’re trying to get motivated for the next year. It’s nice to see everybody come out to really enjoy the camaraderie, the gifts, the food, and the three kings. It’s really fun. It’s a great community event and I’m really excited about it.”

According to Latino tradition, children receive presents on Jan. 6, “el día de Reyes,” the Day of the Kings, or the Wise Men. It is the Magi who brought the presents to the Baby Jesus, and tradition has it that they bring toys to the boys and girls who have been good. El Día De Los Tres Reyes is a tradition at Centro Hispano that started way back in the ’80s.

“It’s been a really long-standing event here and one of our favorites,” Menendez Coller says. “It’s been held at many different places over the years, but over the last several it’s been held right here at Centro.”

A Centro Hispano Tres Reyes celebration from 2007, back when it was held at the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County

As part of the festivities, Centro presents gifts to the children, which will include bikes from Wheels for Winners, and will have face painting stations, provide traditional pastries and hot chocolate to families.

The Tres Reyes (Three Kings) will present the presents to the kids. The line to see them can be long sometimes, but it moves rather quickly. “I’m hoping we will have nice weather. This year it’s on a Saturday during the day so hopefully even more people will be able to come out,” Menendez Coller says.

Menendez Coller says that she’s very proud of Maritza Quechol, a student who has been through Centro Hispano programming and is now an intern at Centro, who has taken a leadership role in planning the event.

“She really has brought a youthful perspective,” Menendez Coller says. “It’s been wonderful to have her.”

Quechol tells Madison365 that the Tres Reyes Magos celebration is very special to her. “I’ve been working on organizing this event since the end of November since I am going to school and trying to do both at the same time,” she says. “This is such an important event that really means a lot to me and my family. It’s an important tradition that has been going on for generations.”

It’s also a special event for Menendez Coller who was born in El Salvador and grew up in Los Angeles.

“It was always a big thing in Southern California. I have great memories from my youth about Tres Reyes back on the West Coast and how it made me feel so close to my community,” she says. “It’s really, really special to me.”

Centro Hispano Executive Director Karen Menendez Coller celebrates Dia de Los Tres Reyes with her Daughter at Centro.

Usually, Centro Hispano sees 400 families come through for the Tres Reyes Magos event. “This year, I know the interest has been higher,” Menendez Coller says. “Even back in December, there were a lot more calls about it and people were asking when it was going to be. We’ve been thankful that we’ve gotten a lot more toys [to give away] this year.”

Hooper General Heating, Black Hawk Church, United Way have all chipped in to help provide regalos for the celebration. “Kaleem [Caire] from One City [Schools] came through for us, too. Last spring, there was a donor that was giving toys, and Kaleem was kind enough to bring over a whole stash that he has been keeping for us for Centro,” Menendez Coller says. “A lot of people have been pitching in to help so it’s really nice to see the community come together.”

And which community members are going to be portraying the Tres Reyes this year?

“It’s a surprise. I can’t tell you,” laughs Menedez Coller. “We’re going to have some new faces this year. Some really fun people.”

Quechol adds that it will be a family-friendly event that you won’t want to miss.

“We wface painting-painting for kids, popcorn, food, cocoa, pan de Rosca,” Quechol says. “We will be giving out presents and bikes. The Three Kings will be taking pictures with the families and there will be great music. It will be a great time to bond with old friends and families and get together and celebrate.”

Menendez Coller says that she loves to see all of the kids at this event. “It just warms my heart. This is community. It makes me happy,” she says. “January is one of my favorite months because of Three Kings and all of the MLK celebrations. It makes me feel complete and ready to start the new year.

“It’s really fun to be around families,” she adds. “It’s not a huge, stressful event for me, it’s more about having fun and being with community.”

El Día de Los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings’ Day) will be celebrated on Saturday, Jan. 12, 10 a.m.-noon, at Centro Hispano, 810 W. Badger Rd.