Three Kings Day: Parades, Crowns, and Camels, Oh My!

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Feeling the Christmas letdown?  Don’t!  December 25 isn’t the only game in town, after all.  Many other cultures celebrate the holiday on different dates.  And living in New York City means that you can, too. Take, for instance, Three Kings Day.  Remember those 12 Days of Christmas that bring you golden rings, lords a’leaping (did you know you needed those?), and, of course, a partridge in a pear tree?  Well, they may begin on December 25, but they end on January 6.  Also known as The Feast of Epiphany aka The Adoration of the Magi aka The Manifestation of God and, in Spanish speaking countries, aka Los Tres Reyes Magos, Three Kings Day. The occasion is customarily marked with the exchange of gifts, the leaving of shoes on the windowsill stuffed with straw and carrots for the Three Kings’ donkeys, and festive parades.

While you may question a donkey’s ability to make it to the top floor of an NYC apartment building (even if he is divinely inspired), the tradition of a Three Kings Day parade remains strong.

The Manhattan favorite is hosted by El Museo Del Barrio New York in East Harlem.  On Friday, January 4, 2013, for the 36th year in a row, beginning at 10:30 a.m., with a viewing route that starts on 106th Street near Park Avenue then heads east to 3rd Street before turning North up to 116th  Street (though weather the day of may necessitate last minute changes), this Three Kings Day parade will feature school and community groups marching in costume, along with music, dancing demonstrations, brightly decorated floats, marching bands, puppets and maybe even a live camel or two (see pictures from last year’s event, here).

NYC schools will still be on winter break then, so expect a huge throng of families and either stake out your prime viewing spot early, or maybe choose a location further up the route to avoid the worst of the crowds.  (Red Tricycle NYC Parade Watching Tip: If a spot on an otherwise crowded block is strangely empty, there’s usually a good reason for that.  And the reason is usually that the awesome-seeming spot is beneath a tree.  Where pigeons live.  Stand at your own risk.  And bring a hat).

Then on Sunday, January 6, head down to the Lower East Side and the Society of Educational Arts (Teatro SEA) in the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center on 107 Suffolk Street (2nd Floor) at 3:00pm for a free celebration where children are invited to meet the Three Kings live and in person, listen to traditional Latin music, and even leave with a holiday gift!

Over the Brooklyn Bridge:
But, Manhattan isn’t the only spot for Three Kings Day action.  Brooklyn hosts a regular parade as well, starting at 1:00pm on Sunday, January 6 and heading up Graham Avenue (Avenida de Puerto Rico).  Families with kiddos under five can hit the parade, then visit the Brooklyn Children’s Museum for their own Three Kings Day celebration, and make a festive crown you can take home with you.  The workshop also takes place on Saturday, if you want to get into the spirit early.

And how will you be celebrating Three Kings Day this year?  More importantly, will there be camels involved? Fill us in below!

Written by: Alina Adams

photo courtesy of Salimfadhley via CC