By Jennifer L. Warren
POUGHKEEPSIE – Most people think the busy holiday season ends on New Year’s Day. For many, what follows in early January, it’s just the beginning.
Officially, January 6 marks a very important date on the calendar in most Spanish-speaking countries: Three Kings Day. A popular tradition, the holiday celebrates when Jesus was born, and the three kings (Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar), or Wise Men or Magi as they are sometimes called, came on camels following a bright star to Bethlehem where Jesus lay. Equipped with plentiful gifts, the Kings worshipped the “newborn king.” And so Sunday, at Poughkeepsie’s Family Partnership Center, a large crowd turned out to pay tribute to this momentous Latin-rooted occasion.
The event, spearheaded by Hudson River HealthCare, Inc., The New York State Council on the Arts, and Arts Mid-Hudson, had multiple objectives. Including an education component focused upon the holiday, the Day further featured; a gift compliments of Toys For Tots, facepainting, a fun craft opportunity of making a crown, an assortment of entertainment-singing, dancing (Grupo Folclorico de Pougkeepsie, Prayer Dancers of Beulah Baptist Church Mime Ministry, and Peekskill Dance Fusion) and musical instruments (Komuyaka Percussion with Jeff Haynes), along with other learning pieces, aimed at both the holiday as well as areas of concern for both the Latin-American community and area residents in general.
“This event today is important for three different reasons; it celebrates culture and tradition, brings diverse communities together to learn from one another and promotes health and wellness, allowing for the first two things to happen, as health is culture,” explained Wilfredo Morel, Director of Hispanic Health for Hudson River Healthcare. “Our organization realizes how one of these three things cannot happen without the other; they are all connected.”
That integral health piece was evident in the multiple booths available to guests. Providing critical information as well as answering questions, offering blood pressure screenings, and providing gifts bearing their logo, the businesses included; Fidelis Care, Grace Smith House, Planned Parenthood, Census 2020 as well as MVP healthcare.
“We are here today to bring healthcare awareness and the choices that exist to the community,” said Wanda Ramirez, Health Benefit Representative for Fidelis. “We also want to celebrate this special holiday Three Kings Celebration with the community.”
Ramirez was surrounded by plenty of company. A large crowd filled the Family Partnership Center Sunday morning, as each year the event grows. Everywhere people could be seen enjoying themselves, imbibing culture, tradition, and community.
“We usually celebrate Three Kings in my country, Uruguay, so I wanted my children, who are now old enough to really understand it at ages four, seven and nine, to experience that tradition the way I did, said Tatiana Esquerria of Lagrange. “They have celebrated it a little in the past at church, but today they are really learning and experiencing a lot more about it.”
That appreciation and deep understanding was evident as her three children, along with niece, put the final touches onto their crowns before heading into the auditorium to listen to some of the lively and colorful, authentic Latin entertainment.
“I had fun with the coloring and decorating and just learning about the appreciation,” said Esquerria’s daughter, Brittney Morocho, who explained how she was headed to her church after the morning’s venue to continue taking part in more of the day’s customs by dressing up as Mary and bringing flowers. “We should appreciate and be grateful for what we have.”
Brittney’s cousin, Abby Morocho, expressed similar sentiments about the potency of the holiday.
“I learned it’s not just about coming to see a show, but people taking time out of their day to teach us things,” said Morocho, who was going to dress up as a flower girl and also bring flowers to church with her cousins. “It was fun to learn about the crowns and decorate them, and just be here today.”