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Hartford Three Kings Day celebration returns, but organizers say parade won't return until next year

Gloria Cintron and her three year old daughter Isabella Priaire take a photo with the three kings. Families and local leaders gather at the Institute for Hispanic Families in Hartford for a Three Kings Day Toy Drive. The event is sponsored by the Spanish American Merchants and the Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Hartford.
Ayannah Brown
Connecticut Public
Gloria Cintron and her 3-year-old daughter, Isabella Priaire, take a photo with the three kings. Families and local leaders gathered at the Institute for the Hispanic Family in Hartford for a Three Kings Day toy drive. The event is sponsored by the Spanish American Merchants Association and the Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Hartford.

More than 2,000 families celebrated the end of the Christmas season Friday, Jan. 6, at the Institute for the Hispanic Family's Three Kings Day event, organized by Catholic Charities in Hartford.

With big smiles, the children came out with their new gifts while dancing to music. Children then took pictures with the three kings. Nilda Morales Rivera, director of the Family Center, said the the tradition started more than two decades ago in Hartford.

“They started more than 25 years ago for people that live in this community," Rivera said. "SAMA [Spanish American Merchants Association] wanted to continue the tradition for the Hispanic families."

According to Rivera, nearly 2,000 children registered to receive gifts. Most of them are from the Hartford area, although some families came from other parts of the state.

“We registered more than 500 families and more than 1,500 at CCHS,” Rivera said. “The families are excited to see when their children receive their gifts.”

The goal of the event was not only to keep the tradition alive, but to also teach children the history and the meaning of Three Kings Day.

Roberto Sanchez, chair and president of the Development Family Center, said it usually costs about $10,000 to have a parade featuring the kings riding camels and live music. However, because of COVID-19, he said the organization is hesitant to celebrate as in past years.

“We usually do live camels, but because of COVID this time we didn’t do it,” Sanchez said. “But we are planning for next year. We are still concern[ed] about our families, and their health.”

Joel Cruz, senior director of family strengthening programs at Catholic Charities, agreed with taking measures against COVID-19 while embracing the community to enjoy the experience of the holiday tradition.

“Last year, because we were still going through COVID, we only had a drive-thru, and we were able to get families out of their cars and take pictures with the three kings and enjoy the festivities,” Cruz said. “People have noticed not having the camels, and so we are hoping for next year we ... not only have the camels, but we also go back to having a parade.”

The Three Kings Day event is an annual collaboration with the Spanish American Merchants Association, the city of Hartford, CICD Puerto Rican Parade and other community partners involved in Hispanic events throughout the year.

“I don’t think we will be able to do it alone. It requires a community, which I like, because at the end of the day when we celebrate this cultural event, we want the community to feel part of it and they also are part of the planning process."

CICD President Sami Vega thinks it’s the duty of the older generation of Latinos to teach the youngsters the beauty and tradition of Hispanic heritage and culture. Vega said Three Kings Day is a tradition not only for the Puerto Rican community, but also the Hispanic community.

“I grew up celebrating the Three Kings Day,” Vega said. “I think it’s our right and my duty to continue with the tradition.”

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.

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