By Katie Engesser
Traditional dances grace Graham Avenue for the 22nd Annual Three Kings Day Parade; a holiday that commemorates the Three Magi’s visit to the baby Jesus.
“They respected Jesus Christ and they brought him gifts,” explained Bryan Figueroa, a student at Queen of the Rosary Catholic Academy in Williamsburg.
Three Kings Day is also known as the Feast of the Epiphany. It’s a long-held tradition in Spanish speaking communities. According to custom, the Three Magi bring gifts to the children instead of Santa Claus. But parents say this holiday is about more than presents.
“It’s not always about the gifts,” says mother of two Farrah Ruiz, “it’s about spirituality, getting together.”
“The purpose of the parade is for our children to know our traditions, our customs,” explained the parade’s president and founder, Radames Millan.
Colorful costumes, music, dancing, live animals, and the Three Kings themselves are all part of the parade. Though the march has become a staple for Latinos in Brooklyn, the changing neighborhood has made the celebration more diverse.
“Williamsburg the past couple years has changed dramatically,” said life-long resident Javier Cortes, “it’s one of the most gentrified areas in New York City.”
Queens of the Rosary Catholic Academy are one of the groups participating in the parade. They march to teach their students about diversity and, as the last catholic academy in Williamsburg, to keep them in touch with their community.
Javier, who is also a parent from the school and the president of the academy’s Home Association, said “It’s kind of like a lesson for the kids as well- to show them that look, we’re very diverse, we can go out there, we can be a part of the community, there are different races, different nationalities out there and this is the era that we’re growing up in right now.”
And while this celebration marks the official end for the Christmas season, many of the students won’t forget the true reason for the holidays.
“God is our creator,” said student Adriana Antonia, “He’s the one that created us into this world and He’s the one that created this world for us, so we should actually be very thankful for that.”