“There is just so much tradition in the Tres Reyes holiday for Latino families. For me, memories of being a part of events like that in El Salvador where I grew up … it’s more than the three kings coming for the birth. It’s about the symbolism in the community and neighborhoods coming together to celebrate culture,” says Karen Menéndez Coller, executive director of Centro Hispano of Dane County. “It’s part of our heritage. Trying to keep that here at Centro Hispano is really important, especially right now where so many people are feeling so excluded from so many things that are happening in this country.”
Centro Hispano of Dane County will host their annual Tres Reyes 2022 Celebration on Friday, Jan. 7, 4-7 p.m. The Tres Reyes Celebration is a long-standing tradition at Centro, a signature event that brings hundreds and hundreds of children and their families (sometimes as many as 700 people!) together for a community celebration that includes face painting, traditional snacks and hot chocolate, professional photos with the Tres Reyes and more.
However, this year’s event, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, will be a little different.
“With the COVID rates the way they are going and with things that we’re hearing in the community, we will be making this a walk-through event,” Menéndez Coller tells Madison365. “Young people can come through the building and get their toys, the Three Kings will be there, and people will walk out.”
It won’t be a celebration like Centro Hispano normally hosts with music and food and refreshments and the children taking professional pictures with the Tres Reyes Magos. Masks will be required and Centro hopes to limit the amount of adults.
“It’s always a fun event. Just like everything else because of COVID, it won’t be quite the same,” Menéndez Coller says. “But the spirit of the Tres Reyes event will be alive and we will be looking forward to seeing the smiling faces on the young people.”
El Día de Los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings’ Day), which is celebrated widely throughout Latin America, is the day that we remember how the wise men brought their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus.
“It’s a meaningful day and such a long-standing event in our Madison community. People really look forward to it,” Menéndez Coller says. “The Three Kings are big in so many parts of the world and the community here really takes to it. It kicks off the year for us in a very warm and heartwarming way and it really makes us feel connected to this community.
“I think we’re still expecting about 400 or so families coming through,” she adds. “We have 1,000 toys to give out. We are just going to try our best to be safe and still really, really festive and excited to see everybody.”
Last year, Centro Hispano worked with volunteers to deliver toys to a record number of children’s homes across Dane County during their Tres Reyes event during the pandemic. This year, Menéndez Coller is looking forward to hosting the event, even if it is in a walk-thru, social-distancing fashion.
“It’s something that I really look forward to … just to hear that sound of laughter at Centro again is so fulfilling. There are just so many things going on right now with the COVID and the recovery … it’s just nice to have an event where we celebrate our community.”