PATERSON, NJ- While Christmas may already seem like a distant memory, the holiday season was on full display in Paterson today as nearly 100 children and their parents filled a storefront on 21st Avenue on Saturday to celebrate Three Kings Day.

The event, sponsored by Desfile Dominicano De New Jersey, the organization behind Paterson’s annual Dominican Parade and Festival, according to Elsa Mantilla, the organization’s founder and long time president, is an important opportunity for the community to “keep (their) tradition and culture.”

Rows of unwrapped toys, many donated by Paterson PBA Local 1, lined the walls of the room yet children sat patiently as Mantilla introduced several local and county officials including Sheriff Richard Berdnik, Councilwoman Maritza Davila, Board of Education President Commissioner Oisin Castillo, Commissioner Manny Martinez, Jr, and former Commissioner, and current At-Large Council candidate, Dr. Lilisa Mimms. 

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Following her introductions Mantilla asked the children about the significance of the day with nine-year-old Oswald quickly responding and reminding those in attendance that they were there to commemorate the Biblical story of the arrival of the Three Kings to visit the newly born Jesus in Bethlehem. Though certainly not names that would easily role off the tongue, another young attendee ably recited that the three that followed the star on their journey were Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.

“This is an important tradition in Latin culture, and one that I am happy we can keep alive right here in Paterson,” said 5th Ward Councilman Luis Velez. “It’s special for these children to have the opportunity to celebrate their heritage.”

Among the highlights of the festivities were the appearance of three local business owners dressed as the Three Kings to help distribute presents to the children. Mario Tommolillo, owner of Classic Auto Body, told TAPinto Paterson that he and his fellow “Kings”, Tony and John Granata, have been playing the roles for 15 years, saying that “it’s easy to take for granted all that we have.” Pointing to one of the smiling children proudly holding her new toy he continued “we do it for them.”

Also in attendance was 6th Ward Councilman Andre Sayegh who said that he’s been participating in it for 10 years and offered that he is proud that his Ward is home to such an important display of the diversity of Paterson. Sharing an excitement and enthusiasm for the tradition as much as the toys being distributed he continued “this is what Paterson is really all about.”