CAMDEN, NJ — In the Mexican city of Puebla where Maribel Castellano was born, Three Kings Day - or El Día de Los Reyes - is often celebrated with family outings, a grand feast and, of course, lots of presents.
“It’s bigger than Christmas for us,” Castellano told TAPinto Camden at a Three Kings Day celebration held Monday in Camden. “Every year we also make sure to eat a ‘rosca de reyes.'"
The “rosca,” known as the ring of kings, is a sweet pastry that varies from country to country and can comprise figs, quinces, cherries and candied fruit.
Three Kings Day is a Christian holiday that celebrates the Three Wise Men who visited Jesus after his birth - bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh. Monday’s event, hosted by the Freeholder Board and Department of Constituent Services’ Office of Hispanic Affairs,’ was held at the Salvation Army Kroc Center.
Attendees enjoyed Spanish food, live music from Trio Renacer and an appearance from the three kings themselves.
Castellano’s three children - 10-year-old Emmanuel and 7-year-old Miguel and Angel - received a Nerf ball, a Cup Ponk set, knee pads, and a Frisbee.
“This is my first time coming and really I’m just happy to see my children smiling and having fun,” said 25-year-old Pine Hill resident Nioshka Delgado, who is originally from Puerto Rico. “I’m not sure what they want, but I’m sure they’ll be happy with it.”
Toys for Tots donated the gifts, which included toys for babies all the way up to 12-year-olds. Among the gifts were footballs, “Despicable Me” minion figurines, bobbleheads, Barbie dolls, board games, and race car sets.
“This day is very important to our Latino community, and we’re happy to get to have a chance to celebrate it today with everybody,” said Camden Mayor Frank Moran.
Jimmy Diaz, a Camden resident for the past 35 years was among the volunteers surrounding hundreds of toys in the back of the center. Every volunteer was designated an age group. When their age was called, they would grab a toy and hand it to a runner.
“My technique is to give each child at least two and change it up on them. Maybe a plush toy and an electronic one,” noted Diaz. “I’ve helped in prior years and think the little things like this go a long way.”
Beatriz Espinoza, a Camden mother of four, stood in line as her children anxiously awaited their gifts.
“This one is very much into soccer and other sports. Let’s hope he’s happy,” she joked.