My informant grew up in Texas and was raised by her white and Puerto Rican mothers. She said that this was a holiday that was celebrated in her Puerto Rican mother’s family and they still celebrate it. It is also called día de los reyes which translates to three kings day. It is when the three kings visited Jesus and gave him the gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. It is typically on January 6th, or twelve days after Christmas*. The night before, my informant and her brother would place shoes on the porch, traditionally full of hay but they would use grass, for the camels. Similar to leaving carrots for Santa’s sleigh or leaving cookies for Santa. In the morning, the hay would be gone and there would be little presents in the shoes.
My informant says that this celebration is traditional in Hispanic countries, such as the one her mother is from.
This holiday ties to the biblical story of the three magi and is found in very catholic countries. It is a feast day, but on the thirteenth day, or after the mini month of the year. It is a very liminal period as it includes the New Year. The presents given to the children can represent good fortune for the coming year and be a way of celebrating making it through the transition time from one year to the next. It is a mini new year after the mini month.
*The song “Twelve Days of Christmas” counts down the days from Christmas to Epiphany.