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Regional News

Three Kings Day Not Quite The Same In A Pandemic

In past years, hundreds showed up for the Three Kings Day celebrations at Blessed Sacrament Church in Springfield, Massachusetts. Because of COVID-19, Grisel Delgado and her daughter are producing a scaled-back event.
Courtesy
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Grisel's Privare Dance School for the Performing Arts
In past years, hundreds showed up for the Three Kings Day celebrations at Blessed Sacrament Church in Springfield, Massachusetts. Because of COVID-19, Grisel Delgado and her daughter are producing a scaled-back event.

Many Christians celebrate Epiphany on January 6, also known as Three Kings Day. In Puerto Rico, it’s an official holiday and for Puerto Ricans living in western Massachusetts, the community celebrations are usually huge, but not in the era of COVID-19.

For more than 40 years, a celebration of Día De Los Reyes in Springfield, Massachusetts, has been organized by generations of Delgados.

"It's a family thing. It’s my daughter, me and my mother, who passed away,” Grisel Delgado said. “We want our kids to continue our culture.”

To Puerto Ricans and others from Latin American cultures, Three Kings Day is more significant than Christmas, Delgado said.

Delgado and her daughter, Zulma Rivera-Delgado, spend months getting donations and buying dolls, science kits and remote control cars to give to area children.

At many Three Kings Day celebrations, the story — of how the wise men arrive by camel in Bethlehem to bestow gifts upon the newborn Jesus — is depicted in a play.

But in Springfield this year, because of COVID, the Three Kings will only be standing outside the Blessed Sacrament Church — no pageant — and kids will pick up their gifts and leave. 

Three state lawmakers are scheduled to portray the wise men, Delgado said: Adam Gomez, the first Puerto Rican to be elected to the Massachusetts Senate, along with state Rep. Carlos Gonzalez and incoming state Rep. Orlando Ramos.

Rivera-Delgado, who now has children of her own, said she remembers as a child in a New England winter trying to find fresh grass to put under her bed for the camels.

The presents are fun, but the day is about more than that, Rivera-Delgado said.

“We have women who were with us when they were little,” Rivera-Delgado said, “who continue these traditions with their children. It’s one of those things if you don’t practice, it dies out. For a community that's constantly changing, it's important for us to make sure that these traditions are rooted in our community.”

The Three Kings Day celebration in Springfield is scheduled for Sunday.

Nueva Esperanza in Holyoke, Massachusetts, held their 21st annual Three Kings Day celebration Tuesday, giving away toys and gifts to registered families.

A post on the organization's Facebook page said, “Although this year will be different we look forward to sharing this time & honored tradition with you all.”

Hartford’s Three Kings Day celebration has been canceled this year.

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