Once again, children will be forming a line to sit on the laps and get a regalo from Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltasar at Centro Hispano’s annual Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings’ Day) celebration Jan. 8 at Centro on Madison’s south side.

A young person enjoys his regalo at a previous Tres Reyes Magos celebration at Centro.
A young person enjoys his regalo at a previous Tres Reyes Magos celebration at Centro.

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. Centro traditionally hosts its Tres Reyes Magos celebration on the Friday closest to Jan. 6.

“It’s a big day for children,” Centro Hispano Executive Director Karen Menendez Coller tells Madison365. “It’s the day that the three kings come and bring gifts to Jesus. It’s a celebration of family and community. It’s one of our fun events and one of our favorites.”

In many Hispanic countries, ‘El Dia de Reyes'(Three Kings Day) represents the height of the Christmas season and is the day when people exchange gifts, rather than on Dec. 25.

“There are going to be a lot of surprises at the event this year so I’m not going to give away too much,” smiles Menendez Coller. “But we will be giving out gifts and books to the children. There will be food and music and entertainment. It’s a great time as we wind down the holidays and celebrate the importance of family in our community.”

Traditionally, the event features many participants who are familiar with Centro Hispano, a cultural home for Dane County’s Latino population that provides social services, job training, educational opportunities, but Menendez Coller says that the Tres Reyes Magos celebration is for the whole community. “It’s open to everybody. I think it’s a good way to get a jump on what Centro is all about at the beginning of the year and to see our beautiful building and learn about all of the programs that we do,” she says. “It’s a great chance to meet our staff and some of our board members. It’s a nice warm event … very family friendly.”

Tres Reyes Magos celebration at Centro
Tres Reyes Magos celebration at Centro

The Tres Reyes Magos tradition is important for Latinos throughout the world and a magical event for children.

“I actually didn’t really celebrate Tres Reyes Magos until I came to the United States,” says Menendez Coller, who emigrated from El Salvador to Los Angeles when she was in middle school. “In El Salvador, we don’t celebrate it as much but it is a huge Mexican tradition. When I was in L.A., my family assimilated a lot of Mexican culture in our lives and Tres Reyes Magos was one of those traditions.”

Sal Carranza, Al Felice, and Baltazar de Anda will once again be back to play the part of kings at the annual Tres Reyes Magos event.

“For many Latinos, spirituality is very important and it strengthens our community here in this country. It makes us feel like we are complete. It supports us through the many barriers that we face in the community,” Menendez Coller says. “The end of the Christmas season is really significant for us as we wind down the year and start fresh. El Dia de los Tres Reyes Magos is a big, important part of our culture.”

The annual Tres Reyes Magos celebration will be held Jan. 8, 4-7 p.m. at Centro Hispano, 810 W. Badger Rd. All are welcome.