How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Six reasons for non-Latinos to adopt Reyes

Who says the holidays ended last weekend? Today is Reyes, or officially El Dia de los Reyes Magos. Otherwise known as the Christian holiday of Epiphany, it's celebrated throughout Latin America and Spain on this last of the twelve days of Christmas, the day on which lore has it that the Three Kings arrived in Bethlehem bearing their gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh.

Which means that while most everyone else (though there are other exceptions) is putting away decorations and feeling twinges of post-holiday blues, many Latinos around town are nibbling on Rosca de Reyes, sipping hot chocolate, attending parades featuring live camels and, if there's money to spare after Christmas, giving and receiving a few additional gifts. It's not a bad way to extend the holidays. Even if you're not Latino, here are a six reasons to adopt Reyes:

1) Keep your holiday decorations up longer

The tree is still relatively fresh, the decorations you went to so much trouble to put up have only been there a couple of weeks. Why take everything down New Year's Day? Besides, having a legitimate holiday to look forward to gives you a good excuse for not taking them down sooner.

2) More gifts!

Granted, for Latinos in the U.S., Christmas is the big ticket. Come Reyes, most of our money is spent, as is our energy. But instilling the tradition in little ones of putting out a shoe in exchange for a small gift from the Three Kings (who act much as Santa Claus does) is quite lovely. So is getting to unwrap an additional token from a loved one, even as an adult.

3) Rosca de Reyes

A Mexican tradition popular in L.A., the ring cake is one of those baked confections that, like fruitcake, looks prettier than it tastes. Nothing topped with dried fruit can ever come close to, say, a nice flan or tres leches. But since it's only subtly sweet, it tastes good with hot chocolate, the preferred method of consumption. Plus you might bite into a tiny, baked-in plastic baby Jesus doll, which can be hard on the teeth but promises good fortune to he or she who finds it.

4) Stave off the post-holiday blues

Jan. 24 has been called "the most depressing day of the year," but the post-holiday blues start for some as soon as the new year begins and the warmth and glitter of the holidays begins to fade. Celebrating Reyes won't make Jan. 24 go away, but it will at least extend the warm fuzziness a week longer, meaning one week less of January doldrums. Then before you know it, it's time for Valentine's Day and bonbons.

5) More festivals, camels included

The Three Kings arrived by camel to the Nativity, as the story goes. In the traditional Reyes parade that takes place each year in Huntington Park, the bill includes live camels the Three Kings procession rides into town. There are other public Reyes festivals around L.A., including on Olvera Street downtown. Heck, if you can afford Disneyland, there's even a Reyes fest taking place there this year, with the sparkly lights on Main Street staying up through the weekend.

6) Family and friends

Celebrating means getting together with loved ones, even if it involves eating a cake topped with dried fruit. it also means laughter, stories told, warmth shared, and all the things we love about the holidays. What better way to start off the new year?

Merry Reyes, everyone.

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