Three Kings Day Parade begins at El Museo del Barrio in New York City, January 4, 2013. (Photo/Kristina Puga)

[PHOTOS] New York City celebrates Three Kings Day

Today was a cold day in New York, but the bright and cheerful 36th Annual Three Kings Day Parade danced in the streets near El Museo del Barrio, lifting up the spirits of the city.

Nearly 3,000 schoolchildren, from 45 schools, participated in the festivities honoring “Three Kings Day,” or “Día de los Reyes” as it is known in Latin America. This day commemorates the arrival of the three kings who visited the baby Jesus when he was born with gifts. It grew into a tradition where children wake up on the morning of January 6 with presents. A “Rosca de Reyes” (a ring-shaped cake) is also eaten, and all Christmas decorations are traditionally put away on this day.

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“This day has been a very special tradition from when I was a child in Puerto Rico,” says Madrina of the Parade, artist, Tanya Torres, who still remembers the joy she felt when she moved to the area and heard the music again after so long. “It’s something that you lose when you come to the U.S., but you gain with this event…It’s about three people who believe something can be done in the world.”

In addition to live camels, also in attendance were, award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa, New York State Senator José M. Serrano, and Tanya Torres, Puerto Rican artist and writer, among many others. The costumes of the appointed Kings were dressed in costumes created by Tony-nominated designer, Emilio Sosa, symbolizing the influences of pre-Columbian, Spanish and African traditions.

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“It’s another day to give gifts,” says Jenny Sepulveda who traveled from New Jersey to attend the Parade. “It’s part of our holiday — our culture.”

Ten-year-old student, Hugo Cortes, from P.S. 36 in the Bronx, NY, also makes sure to comment.

“It means a lot because when my parents were in Mexico they got gifts from the three kings,” he says. “My family throws a party on Saturday. We get candy and dance, but the kids want to go home at midnight with their gifts.”

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Pre-K teacher, Vanessa Ramos says it’s important to take kids to events like this so they learn about different cultures and traditions.

“We can’t talk about religion, but we teach them about the kings following the star to find the new-born baby,” she says.

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