By Mark Hallum
Elected officials from western Queens led a toy giveaway for students in Corona at St. Leo’s School last Saturday.
Christmas may be over for most of us, but Three Kings Day — also known as the Feast of the Epiphany — is still celebrated by many Christians 12 days after the big holiday to commemorate the biblical story in which three wise men arrived to pay homage to Jesus after his birth.
The annual toy giveaway at St. Leo’s was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) and state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst).
Three Kings Day is celebrated widely by Hispanic communities in Queens, according to Moya.
“For many families, the holiday season isn’t considered over until Three Kings Day has come and gone.” Moya said. “The holidays always feel warmer when the community comes together to celebrate and, far from being holiday-ed out, the kids were especially thrilled to have one more day of gift giving. I hope everyone observing Three Kings Day had a wonderful time with their family. ¡Feliz dia de reyes!”
Moya mentioned that he, like the children patiently waiting to receive a second batch of gifts, is a product of St. Leo’s School.
The toys, donated by the three elected officials, were divided up by age ranges. Groups of students trotted eagerly to the tables as their age groups were called where Moya and Peralta handed them out.
“In our culture, Three Kings Day is as traditional as Santa Claus,” Peralta said. “As it happens on Christmas Day, during el Día de Reyes kids also receive presents, if they behave well throughout the year. I am glad children in our local communities can participate in celebrations like this one and keep tradition alive. It is always positive and inspiring to see a smile in a child’s face.”
Peralta, a Corona-born Dominican, stressed the fact that Three Kings Day is not just an extension of Christmas, but its own beloved Latin American tradition which should be honored and continued.
Crowley was attending to business in Washington, D.C., according to a spokesman for Moya, and could not be at the giveaway which has been a long-standing tradition for the congressman.
“Three Kings Day is a cherished and time-honored tradition that is dear to the hearts of so many within our Hispanic communities here in Queens,” Crowley said in a statement.
About 40 people attended the event ,with a student musical ensemble opening the festivities with a recorder rendition of “Jingle Bells.”
The Three Kings Day celebration at St. Leo’s has been a hallmark of the community, hosted until this year by Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst), who led her own celebration on Sunday, an email newsletter showed.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall