A peek into our collections, one object at a time

Three Kings Day

January 3, 2018
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Photo of three kings stauettes
Wooden figurines depicting the Three Kings. Crafted around 1900 by a member of the Rivera family in the town of Morovis, Puerto Rico. (Courtesy of the National Museum of American History)

A festive tradition in Spain, Puerto Rico, Mexico and many Latin American countries, Three Kings Day, or the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorates the arrival of the three kings (Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar) in Bethlehem to worship the newborn Christ child.

On Jan. 6, children receive their Christmas presents not from Santa Claus, but from the Three Kings or Reyes Magos. Other traditions include family gatherings, parades and eating the Roscón (or Rosca) de Reyes, a round cake with dried fruit, powdered sugar and a small plastic baby hidden inside.

The figure of Melchior, as depicted in most traditional renderings of the Three Kings, is of African origin. This set of Three Kings, from the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, is from the town of Morovis, Puerto Rico, probably crafted around 1900 by a member of the Rivera family. Learn more about Three Kings Day on the museum’s blog.