New York’s largest traditional celebration of the Christian holiday of the Epiphany celebrated its 22nd anniversary on Sun., Jan. 6 with a festive Three Kings Day Parade.
The Feast of the Epiphany, Three Kings Day commemorates the Biblical story of the three wise men from the East who followed the star of Bethlehem to bring gifts — frankincense, gold and myrrh — to the infant Christ.
As tradition goes, on the Epiphany, which is celebrated 12 days after Christmas, before going to sleep, children leave grass or hay under their beds for the camels that carry the Three Kings on their travels to deliver gifts to children around the world. The next day, friends and families gather to celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings.
This year’s parade theme was peace around the world. Among those attending the event — which began at the intersections of Meeker Street and Avenue of Puerto Rico (Graham Avenue) in Williamsburg — were Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill and PBA President Patrick Lynch.
“It’s great to celebrate Latino culture,” Gonzalez told this paper. “We celebrated Three Kings Day in my family while I was growing up and now I’m doing it with my children. It’s a really good feeling, especially when we can celebrate our culture and help make things better for our communities.”
Lynch called Three Kings Day one of the most important days of the year. “It’s a way for us to start off the new year in a holy way and a celebratory way,” he said.
Three Kings Day Parade founder Radames Millan said that it was an honor to continue the parade tradition. “Three Kings Day is very important for Latin American people,” he noted.
This year’s parade marshals were Andy Rodriguez, Jenimarie Garcia Cruz and Maria Ortega.
Ortega, a principal at M.S. 126, was also named International Parade Godmother. “It’s a magnificent day and it’s glorious to be with the community and keeping the tradition of the celebration of Three Kings Day,” Ortega told this paper. “It’s a day where we bring hope and happiness to our children and the future of our community.”
Garcia Cruz, a detective and president of the NYPD Hispanic Society, said that the parade was something she is always proud to be a part of. “This is culture, tradition and I’ve looked forward to coming to the parade for the last 22 years,” she added.
The parade traveled down Graham Avenue in Williamsburg to the sound of Caribbean and Latin American music.
Local school children from Williamsburg and Bushwick dressed as kings and angels as they led the Three Kings, their camels, llamas and other animals along the parade route. There was also a colorful display of flags, costumes and floats.
Among those participating in this year’s parade were students and teachers from the P.S. 120 Magnet School of Architecture, Engineering and Design, John Ericsson Middle School 126, Middle School 50, Magnet School of the Performing Arts, El Puente Williamsburg Leadership Center and Queen of the Rosary Catholic Academy.
District Leader Tommy Torres noted the cultural significance of the event. “This is an annual tradition in our Latino communities here in Williamsburg and Bushwick when we celebrate the Epiphany,” Torres said. “I’m proud to be an assistant principal and to continue that tradition with our students and our kids.”