Early in January, our travels took us to Williamsburg Brooklyn, a diverse melting pot just over the Williamsburg Bridge. We were there to view the 14th annual 3 Kings Day Parade. Williamsburg has changed over the years becoming more trendy and chic with a mixture of older and newer residences. An ideal place to attract transplants from across all walks of life. While Rachel was craving a burger, we asked a suspected local of where some better eateries were. We guessed right and the mid-20s Midwesterner suggested a place down the block but saw that it had yet opened so he check his iphone and suggested a few places right on the parade route on Graham Ave. We walked across Metropolitan Ave. and came across Phoebe’s, a trendy natural food cafe. Terek, the gracious host, suggested a few of the better dishes to try. We were pleasantly surprised at how delicious and filing both our meals were. Phoebe’s could easily be moved to the Village and give Quantam Leap some competition. The quesadilla was savory and Rachel devoured the veggie burger. We both followed it up with some hot Brazilian coffee to prepare us for the cold blustery day and the first parade of the year.
As a child with a Hispanic background in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan , I became used to receiving gifts on Christmas Day and on January 6, Day of the Epiphany or 3 Kings Day. How great was that..two gifts in less than two weeks. As time passed, Christmas became the main event for giving of gifts. There is a community group, Tres Reyes Magos, dedicated to keeping the tradition of exchanging gifts at the time the three wise men presented gifts to the infant Jesus alive. Founder and President Radames Millan explained that he has nothing against Santa Claus but as a child the day to exchange gifts was always on January 6th. The parade brings people from all Hispanic countries together young and old alike to celebrate the two thousand plus year tradition. Mr. Millan said this year’s parade had its obstacles with difficult economic conditions and fewer participants than previous years and was considering cancelling the parade. Lucky for us and all the participants the parade was scheduled to continue.
A few blocks away from where the parade was to begin, we found a bus stop with a glass enclosure for shelter from the wind gusts. There I noticed a young artist in the making. Sasha, a bright 8 year old, was sketching an ice skater on her drawing pad. I encouraged her to build on her talent and suggested she take art classes to learn more, she said she didn’t need to. Wow. Eight years old and with an attitude to boot. She explained that both her parents are artists so she gets plenty of lessons. Sasha walked over to the middle of the block and said she thinks they are coming so I went to see. The parade looked like it was going to start. Lots of activity but no one was moving in our direction yet. The sound of an old bolero song came from a boom box. I turned to see a bicyclist on a pimped out ride with Puerto Rican flags wearing a crown and a proud smile pedaling his way down to the parade. I hope that wasn’t one of the kings. Soon after the fire engine blared it sirens and gave a few honks of its horn signaling the start of the parade.
The first to march up Graham Ave. were two students carrying the banner of the sponsors..Tres Reyes Magos. Closely behind them were club President Radames Millan, Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn Octavio Cisneros, and Public Schools representative Juan Martinez in a show of unity. Another display of unity was the presentation of flags for all the Latin American countries by local students. An interesting display was a homemade creation of the Latin American flag with all of the countries flags sewn in a square in top left hand corner and red white and blue stripes similar in style to Old Glory. A parade just isn’t a parade without a marching band. It’s even better when the band is made-up of 8, 9, and 10 year olds. The band leader blared out from the megaphone that the drums were bigger than some of the kids and upon his instruction assembled and began a drum line that got the crowd dancing and moving to stay warm. The horn section chimed in even though I’m sure some of the musicians could hardly feel their lips. The Magnet School Marching Band of PS 257 played very well and hopefully we can hear them play on 5th Ave. soon.
A fun Mexican tradition of Los Chinelos, the dancing kings, got the crowd into the spirit. Even Sasha and her guardian started to dance with a long robed king. It was an excellent way to stay warm. The sound of bolero music returned. The bicyclist as well as his classic car enthusiast friends drove up Graham Ave. single file. Close to twenty tricked out cars were displayed followed by the moment everyone had been waiting for… the 3 Kings arrived. Their brisk pace was only followed by the enthusiasm of the children waiting to see the animals displayed…3 camels, sheep and a donkey. With each passing block the children and families join in as though led by a pied piper. Even one of the camels smiled at the camera surely happy to see the crowd gathering. The parade ended at a community center where the 3 Kings and their helpers distributed a treasure of donated toys to children. In total over 1000 gifts were given away to the children. We waved bye to Sasha and hoped that she opened a gift as exciting and memorable as the gift we experienced that day.
Next Parades: We will be double hopping over to Chinatown on Feb 6th and Flushing on Feb 12th for the Chinese Lunar New Year parade. Year of the Rabbit.
Tag Archives: Williamsburg