This reflection written by Bedford High School Special Education teacher Kristina Sergi, originally appeared in the Superintendent’s Update by Superintendent Cliff Chuang on Friday, January 5. Please find this week’s full issue of Superintendent’s Update and back issues at bedfordps.org.
By Kristina Sergi, SPED Teacher at BHS
As a child, when friends would come over to my house over the winter break, they used to ask why we kept our tree up after Christmas. To which I replied, “you don’t take it down until after the kings come!”
Growing up in a Latino household, El Dia de los Reyes, also known as Three Kings’ Day, was a staple in our holiday celebrations. Also known as Epiphany, this day is celebrated as the day that the three wise men first saw baby Jesus and brought him his gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh. My earliest memories consist of my mom waking up before dawn on Jan. 5, marinating the pernil, or pork shoulder. Sofrito, garlic, Sazon, and Adobo seasonings wafted through the air as we began to get up and get ready for school. My siblings and I were filled with excitement throughout the entire day, knowing when we got home that afternoon, we would prepare for the kings to visit our house.
Much like the tradition of leaving milk and cookies for Santa, we would each prepare a shoebox filled with our guinea pig Rodney’s hay, eagerly anticipating for the kings’ camels to stop and have a snack while our presents were dropped. Waking up on Jan, 6 was just as exciting as Christmas Day.
We were always so impressed the camels were able to find their way to our suburban household! Stacked next to our shoeboxes were a small pile for each of us, never wrapped like traditional Christmas gifts. The gifts were not lavish – some chocolate, a toy or two, sometimes even a few dollar bills – but we were always so appreciative.
We carried the feeling of joy with us throughout the school day, and the celebrations continued that night at dinnertime. The roasted pernil, along with arroz con gandules (yellow rice with pigeon peas), pasteles (similar to a tamale, these little pockets of deliciousness consist of plantains, meat, and olives cooked in a banana leaf), and a dessert of flan were always on the menu for our dinner. I didn’t realize the time and effort it took until I got older, and to this day, it still warms my heart knowing that my Italian immigrant mother took the time to learn to make traditional Puerto Rican dishes for my father.
After dinner, sitting by our still-lit Christmas tree, my dad would sip coquito (Puerto Rican eggnog) and tell us of his childhood growing up on the island. The week-long celebrations that continued after Christmas include block parties with lots of food, music, and sometimes even fireworks. I laid my head down that night, with a full belly, head full of colorful stories, and the happiest of hearts.
Three Kings’ Day looks a lot different now, but the tree and the family dinner still remain the same. And as my husband and I get ready to welcome our first baby this spring, we look forward to keeping traditions alive and well for the next generation.
Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays, and a wonderful new year!