One day before the official Día de Los Reyes or “Day of the Kings” celebration on Jan. 6, Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) and Assembly Member Catalina Cruz hosted AAFE’s annual Three Kings celebration at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) in Corona.
Día de Los Reyes or ‘Day of the Kings’ also known as Epiphany, is widely celebrated in many Latin American countries and honors the Three Wise Men who followed the star to Bethlehem and arrived 12 days after Jesus’ birth on Jan. 12. The men came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, according to the Bible.
Five hundred kids had registered for the event, which included gifts, free churros and hot chocolate, face painting, games, a raffle, performances by the Glee Club, a student-led show choir and a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Met and the Three Kings.
Nonprofit organizations and government agencies like Voces Latinas, Elmhurst Hospital, Queens Legal Services, MetroPlusHealth and the NYC Dept. of Consumer and Worker Protection, to name a few, provided information about community resources and free services to the adults.
Many celebrate the holiday with Rosca de Reyes or Three Kings Bread, a traditional sweet bread eaten on Jan. 6, symbolizing the gifts the kings brought for Jesus. NYSCI taught kids how to bake Rosca de Reyes -or Three Kings Bread- from scratch, including milling the grain. The children had a chance to study the grain with a digital microscope.
Emily Rios, managing director for Community Services at AAFE, which provides housing counseling, eviction prevention and entitlements and benefits support, explained the event was in its third year.
“Each year it gets bigger and bigger,” Rios said. “So, this year, we’re able to partner with NYSCI and with Catalina Cruz’s office to host it here. This is really exciting. It’s such a beautiful, beautiful space, and we’re able to serve today 500 children thanks to the space.”
Queens residents Jim Burke, Brad Usher and Jose Villeda presented the Three Kings.
Burke, who founded the 34th Ave Open Streets Coalition in Jackson Heights, explained that the event was in its third year and started on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights, drawing people from Elmhurst, Corona and Flushing.
Burke said it was a “lot of fun” to volunteer for the event.
“The kids just light up, and they’re going to have all these wonderful activities. They’re going to have all these fun things, and then they’re going to get really nice gifts,” Burke said. “So, what’s not fun to volunteer for an event like that?”
While Burke was donning a Three King’s crown for the third year, it was the first time for Usher.
“I’m a volunteer with 34th Avenue and got recruited to be a king this year. So, we’ll see how it goes,” Usher said.
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng was excited to celebrate Three Kings Day with the community.
“During this season of sharing and giving, it’s so special for us to be together as a community,” Meng said
Vilda Vera Mayuga, commissioner of the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, encouraged everyone to start the New Year “strong” and encouraged the parents to take advantage of the city’s free resources like tax preparation.
“If you make $85,000 or less as a family or $59,000 or less as an individual, you qualify for the free tax preparation services,” Mayuga said. “I want to encourage everybody to start the new year strong, take charge of your finances.”
Assembly Member Cruz explained that the free event was an opportunity for her to give back to community members who have routinely been ignored because of their immigration status, even though they played a major part in keeping the city afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They have given us so much that they deserve an opportunity to have fun,” Cruz said. “On a religious level, on an emotional level, Three Kings always represents the delivery of hope. And my wish is that this is what we’re doing for the community here.”