Three Kings Day: Are businesses missing out on the ‘second Christmas’?

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Coral Murphy, USA TODAY
Published 3:01 a.m. ET Jan. 4, 2021

Three Kings Day, or Epiphany, is the day when the Three Wise Men followed the star to Bethlehem bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh for baby Jesus.

Fernando Laspina won’t let the pandemic deter him from celebrating Three Kings Day, known to many Latinos as a second Christmas.

Laspina runs El Maestro, a nonprofit educational center in The Bronx, New York, where he plans to safely garner enough gifts for children from low-income families living in the area.

Every year, members of the South Bronx also take into consideration the extra spending for the Jan. 6 celebration to gift their families and El Maestro. 

“It’s not our typical Three Kings Day celebration this year,” said Laspina. “We were close to cancelling it, but it’s important to keep the tradition alive.” The Puerto Rican organization will organize a socially-distanced gift distribution for children, where they will receive toys from the Three Kings. 

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Latino children across the U.S. celebrate Three Kings Day, which commemorates the “Wise Men” visiting the nativity scene, according to Christian tradition.. For parents, this means extra holiday shopping throughout the winter season, but with little offers to take advantage of after Christmas. 

“This is a lost opportunity for businesses in the U.S., especially in places with a huge presence of Latinos,” said Monica García-Pérez, an economics professor at St. Cloud State University. “It’s a period that dies after Christmas, and it would be good for online businesses to target younger audiences between Christmas and the first week of January.” 

Latino children across the U.S. celebrate Three Kings Day, which commemorates the visit of the Wise Men to the baby Jesus, as they wait for the arrival of the Magi late at night, expecting more gifts after Santa's visit. (Photo: Cameron Clark, York Daily Record)

Venezuela, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Paraguay and Cuba are among the countries that celebrate this tradition. Each country commemorates the Wise Men visit in different ways, as well as differ in gifts. In Venezuela, gifts range from small toys to candy, while in Puerto Rico and Mexico, gifts tend to be larger and pricier.

The U.S. Hispanic population reached a record 60.6 million in 2019, up 930,000 over the previous year, according to the Pew Research Center. Between 2010 and 2019, the Latino share of the total U.S. population increased from 16% to 18%, and they accounted for nearly half of all U.S. population growth over this period.

Latino buying power has also risen from $213 billion in 1990 to $1.5 trillion in 2018, according to a 2019 Nielsen report. This number is expected to rise to $1.9 trillion in 2023.

Despite this growth, García-Pérez says she’s worried the gifts in Hispanic households could diminish this year. [[she referred Hispanic]]

“The Hispanic community has been very financially hit by COVID, so it’s likely Hispanics made up their mind about their budgets for Three Kings Day,” said García-Pérez.

In a September report, 72% of Latino households reported money problems amid COVID-19, compared with one-third of white households.

Laspina said the pandemic has battered the community, but he’s hopeful El Maestro will be able to keep traditions alive in the new year.

“Anyone who doesn’t have the time to buy gifts can always make monetary donations, but we always make sure to buy enough gifts so each child can have one – it’s better to have leftover than not enough,” said Laspina. El Maestro is expecting over 100 children to arrive throughout the day in the socially-distanced activity. 

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