three kings day

Alex Torres, left, of Egg Harbor City, German Zuniga, middle, of Mays Landing, and Angel Rodriguez, of Egg Harbor City, portray the three wise men Sunday during the Feast of the Epiphany celebration at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish at St. Nicholas Church in Egg Harbor City.

Ben Fogletto

EGG HARBOR CITY — Being picked as a king wasn’t that hard for 46-year-old Alex Torres, a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish at St. Nicholas Church in Egg Harbor City.

“My daughter serves in the Mass and she told me before we got out of the vehicle, ‘Dad, they’re going to ask you to be a king,’” he said. “I said, ‘OK.’”

On Sunday, the church celebrated Three Kings Day — with about 16 children acting as Mary, Joseph, shepherds and dancers — to celebrate the three wise men who brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus in Bethlehem.

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All the participants were children, except for those portraying the wise men, Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior. The tradition started several years ago to increase family involvement in the annual play, said Kathy Garcia, coordinator of CCD for the church.

“The kids look up to their parents. It came to be a family thing, to get the whole family involved,” she said.

Angel Rodriguez, 55, of Egg Harbor City, was another Magi, his second year as a king. Also asked to play the part Sunday, he said it was fun but also an honor.

“It’s a celebration of Jesus, how he was welcomed to the Earth and how we love him,” Rodriguez said.

Widely observed in Hispanic communities, Three Kings Day, or the Feast of the Epiphany, concludes 12 days after Christmas.

Garcia said the church’s short play — acted without words and involving a swaddled plastic baby doll, a platform of hay and a gold cardboard star lined with sparkling garland — offers a fun way to get children involved in religious lessons they have been learning.

“It shows how your religion can really be in the face of a child, how they light up,” she said. “So many children are so intense in this.”

With donations from the Salvation Army, the church was able to distribute presents to children.

Like the giving of gold, frankincense and myrrh, gift giving is another hallmark of the holiday.

Father Nick Dudo said Three Kings Day, or Jan. 6, is celebrated in many parts of the world.

“In our society, Christmas is the big day. But that’s mostly in American society,” he said. “Christmas on the 25th is a celebration of the birth, but also for the world (Jan. 6) is a special day.”

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