Día de Reyes traditions come to life at a DeKalb County School
"It's important for us to keep the tradition going...this allows our kids to experience it like we did."
For people inside the auditorium of the PATH Academy, a DeKalb County charter school, on Saturday, the holiday season did not end with the New Year's arrival.
The smells of café de olla (a traditional Mexican coffee beverage), atole (a hot drink made with masa, vanilla, and cinnamon), and arroz con leche (rice with milk) filled the room of the Brookhaven based school.
More than 200 people were there to celebrate Three Kings Day, or Día de Reyes, a holiday not officially recognized in the U.S., but traditionally celebrated in Mexico - as well as in parts of South America, the Caribbean, Spain, and France. It marks the day three wise men visited baby Jesus after a 12-day journey.
In Brookhaven, where over 20 percent of the population is Hispanic, many residents came together to keep their traditions from home alive.
The event was hosted by Amigos de la Comunidad en Georgia, a nonprofit organization that educates, empowers, and supports the overall well-being of the Latino community. Amigos joined forces with the PATH Academy, several nonprofits, and individuals passionate about serving the community, to set up services for attendees.
“Being part of relevant events for our community, like this one, is a way for us to get closer to the people and show them the resources available to them,” said Marcela Cortes, event planner for the City of Brookhaven, which also supported the event.
Two people from Emory Healthcare did blood pressure and sugar checkups on adults, volunteers from the Feminist Women's Health Center provided clothing for women, and the Latino Community Fund Georgia gave out information about the organization and the resources available to allocate investments.
Meanwhile, kids were getting their faces painted and enjoying traditional aguinaldos - goody bags with candy and fruit - made by individual supporters. Adults dressed up as the Three Wise Men and handed out candy to the children. When it was time to hit the piñata, the kids were shrieking with delight.
The party was nothing short of a traditional posada Navideña (a Christmas party) in the streets of Mexico.
"It's important for us to keep the tradition going," said Maricela Guzman, an attendee from Oaxaca, Mexico, whose kids were born in the U.S. "This allows our kids to experience it like we did."
One of those traditions is eating Rosca de Reyes - a colorful crown-shaped yellow sweet bread. It contains at least three small plastic infant figures representing baby Jesus. Whoever takes a slice with one of the toy infants is responsible for bringing tamales to the Candelaria Celebration on February 2 - the Catholic celebration of “The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ.”
Before the event ended, kids lined up for another important ritual: the gifts, which are left under the Christmas tree on the night of January 5. At the celebration on Saturday though, gifts were donated by individuals and organizations, and handed out by Amigos volunteers. From babies to teenagers, every kid left with a gift in hand.
"The support of so many made it all possible," said Aceli Zenil, co-founder of Amigos de la Comunidad en Georgia. "Families are here having a beautiful time, and we hope to be able to do it again."
Thanks for reading 285 South! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.