WILKES-BARRE – Even though it's been nearly two weeks since Christmas, a holiday celebration took place Sunday when the three kings visited the Catholic Youth Center.
The center's Latino Committee marked El dia de los Reyes or the day of the kings when the magi or wise men arrived in Bethlehem with gifts for the Christ child.
Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar brought gold, frankincense and myrrh, according to the Bible.
Inside the gym, children listened to a story about the kings, took whacks at a candy-filled piñata and scrambled for Tootsie Rolls and other goodies that spilled from it.
Nearly 300 people attended the event, the fifth one held by the committee. The law firm of DLP provided gifts for the children. Representatives and the mascot of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders baseball team also were on hand with schedules, information and some free tickets for the upcoming season of the Triple-A affiliate club of the New York Yankees.
Alma McGarry of Pittston, committee chairperson, said the feast of the Epiphany, which falls on Jan. 6, 12 days after Christmas, is a religious holy day celebrated by a good portion of the Latino population. It's just a time to celebrate in unity with family and friends, she said.
It differs from country to country in terms of meals and traditions. People in Mexico and Central American countries bake rosca, an oval-shaped bread filled with fruits and little doll of the baby Jesus. Whoever gets the slice containing the doll is supposed to hold a celebration at his or her house the following year, said McGarry.
There's no rosca at the table in Shirley Torna's native country of Venezuela. In my country we celebrate it, Torna said. We get together with friends and eat a good meal with family.
Torna, of Wilkes-Barre, brought two boys, two nieces and mother to the party.
Children in Mexico put out their shoes for the kings, added Amber Jacobs of Wilkes-Barre.
Instead of Santa Claus coming, three kings come and give gifts, she said. The feast day is less commercialized than Christmas, she said.
The local event was open to the public and Jabobs said she encouraged her students to attend.
It really helps the community, too, she said.