The Three Kings arrive in Central Florida this weekend
On Saturday, children will be looking for camel tracks, bunches of eaten hay, and gifts left by The Three Kings. Additionally this weekend, multiple Three Kings events are being held for the public in Orange and Osceola counties.
January 6th is the Feast of Epiphany otherwise known as Three Kings Day, which is celebrated commonly in Latin communities and recognizes the 12th day after the birth of Jesus Christ when he was visited by three wise men who were struck with wonder by the baby Jesus.
Now, tradition holds the Three Kings visit children everywhere on camelback and leave presents behind. In turn, families leave hay or other food for the camels to keep them going on their long journey.
Orange Commissioner Mayra Uribe is the daughter of Columbian and Argentinian parents. She recalls childhood memories of waiting for camels to arrive the night before Three Kings Day. Now, Uribe not only celebrates with her two children, but she also hosts her own event hoping to bring the tradition to all children — the fourth annual Three Kings celebration at 10 a.m. at St. John Vianney Catholic Church on Orange Blossom Trail.
"My parents were immigrants and the Santa Claus was not as much of a big deal in their countries, respectively, as it is here, but Three Kings were. And so I just want to keep that tradition," she said. "We want to have a time, where kids get to have lunch together. They get to pick a toy, get their face painted, and play some games. But it's really about unifying family and community together."
Uribe said that the Orlando Magic donated a large amount of basketballs to the event — basketballs, as well as soccer and footballs, are among the most requested gifts. They'll also have headphones and baby dolls available.
Uribe also said that while the event is largely celebrated by Latin culture, Three Kings Day is for all children.
"I invite everybody. I think it's great when we have everyone come, and you have a diversity that kids get to see and learn about," she said. “This is a moment to stop. This is not a technology event. This is a simple event where we talk. Where we share. Where you open your toy because you don't have to save it and wait for Christmas. It's Three Kings Day.”
The Kings will also stop by for pictures.
Parents interested in receiving a gift for their child will need to call in advance.
When: 10 a.m. to Noon
Where: St. John Vianney Catholic Church 6200 S Orange Blossom Trl, Orlando, FL 32809
John Newstreet is prepping to lay dirt and camel tracks for his 5-year-old girl, while he also plans the 19th annual celebration of Three Kings Day, Sunday at Old Town in Kissimmee.
"My five-year-old is a believer. It's nice to relive childhood through her eyes," said Newstreet the president and CEO of the Osceola Chamber.
Newstreet said that local businesses donated 3,000 toys for children at this year's event. Hotdogs and popcorn will be available for lunch. Kids will have a chance to win a raffle event for bikes and tablets. Also, the Kings will be visiting the event and taking pictures with kids.
The event is free for all to join, thanks to generous private businesses coming together to honor the day for kids.
"There's usually some sort of exchange for events like this. Like 'we want this if we're giving this' but not for Three Kings Day," he said.
According to the U.S. Census, 57% of the Osceola population is Hispanic, which is why donating time, money, and effort toward the Latin cultural event is important to those involved in the celebration, Newstreet said.
"These kids, they're still excited, and they're spending this special day with us. That's pretty powerful to see," he said.
Newstreet was raised Roman Catholic and celebrated Christmas as a kid. His wife's background is Venezuelan meaning his five-year-old daughter previously found reindeer tracks on Christmas and is now expecting to find camel tracks this weekend.
"Christmas is still a big day, but my daughter is very much looking forward to Three Kings Day," he said.
Osceola Chamber's Three Kings Day
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Old Town 5770 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Kissimmee