“Mom–can I help you put away the hats and gloves?” offered The Girl, a few hours after arriving back home after another epic Christmas road trip to visit grandparents. Grateful for the help, I let her sort out the scarves, hats, mittens, and gloves, while I unpacked another suitcase.
I few minutes later, I strolled past the coat closet where she was working, when she excitedly asked me, “Did you buy me Frozen?”
I froze in my tracks, searching my brain for the “right” answer.
See, The Three Kings were gifting The Girl and her brothers movies for Three Kings’ Day. Unfortunately, at 9pm on January 5th, The Girl stumbled upon her present–a few hours before the Three Kings were due to arrive.
Now, she is a few weeks away from being 10 years old. So I debate whether I should just quietly tell her, “Ummm . . . don’t be surprised if you get that movie from The Three Kings tomorrow morning.”
However, not being good with a quick answer, I answered truthfully, “Yes.” (As in, “Yes, I bought you Frozen.”) Admittedly, it sounded pretty strangled coming out of my throat. And my extreme hesitation to answer probably tipped her off.
Was this the time to tell her the truth about the Three Kings? (And–let’s face it–Santa Claus would probably come up in the conversation.)
No. I knew I had an hour before the grocery store closed. Sucker that I am, I darted off to the grocery store for a back-up Three Kings’ Day gift. For my ten-year-old. Admittedly, we did need milk and eggs for breakfast, too.
Sure, she’s old enough to know that neither Santa Claus nor the Three Kings magically visit us in the middle of the night, gleefully marking both the beginning and the end of the Christmas season. She may already be aware of that fact.
But she hasn’t told me that she knows. She hasn’t even let on any signs of suspicion. Maybe she’s just playing along becase it’s fun. Maybe she’s just playing along for her younger brothers. Maybe she really still believes. So if I can keep up the charade for one more year, preserving some childhood wonder and innocence and whimsy, well shoot–that’s worth a late-night run to the supermarket for a cheap snorkel that she’s been wanting.
When we started this whole adventure, of celebrating fantastic midnight visitors during the Christmas season, I was hesitant to go the whole hog and do Santa AND the Three Kings. In fact, for The Girl’s first few Christmases we didn’t have any midnight visitors. It was gloriously simple. One Christmas, we didn’t even give ourselves any presents. (Strangely, I look fondly back on that Christmas. Suffice it to say, gift-giving is not one of my love languages. Or my husband’s.)
But, in the end, that year I did break down and introduce the Three Kings that year, the Year of No Presents. I was so stinkin’ excited about it that year. (She was really into airplanes and I found an amazing airport set from MegaBlocks.) I knew it was a tradition I would have to relive year after year. While I hesitate on huge commitments of that sort, I jumped in with both feet that year.
Usually our Three Kings gifts are stashed under the Nativity scene as we’re walking out the door to visit relatives for Christmas vacation (we usually arrive back home January 7th or so). The quality of the gifts has lessened with the years. (Or the age of the child. Sunnyjim just got a big bag of M&Ms this year. But he was thrilled. Aren’t three-year-olds great?) If you ask my kids what Santa Claus gave them, my son will unenthusiastically reply, “Santa just gets us school supplies.”
But there’s something special in the anticipation. There’s something in this belief, even in this belief that isn’t based in reality and is just an illusion. It’s a sweet illusion, and it’s one I’m willing to uphold for awhile longer.
And if my almost-10-year-old is willing to play along, I’m game, too.
This year we were home. Just in time.
For the first time in a long time, I was able to buy a full-priced rosca de reyes. (I’m pretty stoked about getting a half-priced one tomorrow.) For the first time in a long time, we were able to leisurely eat our rosca with a cup of hot chocolate after mass on Epiphany.
It was glorious to not be in the car today. Because that’s where we usually are on January the 6th. Much like the Wise Men, we were able to enjoy just being. Resting. Celebrating together after a very long journey.
So Happy Three Kings’ Day, Día de los Reyes Magos, or Epiphany!
And if you missed out on the rosca de reyes, hit up your local Mexican bakery–they might be half price tomorrow! (Unless you’re in a part of the world that has their own Kings’ Cakes, of course.)
PS: If you know The Girl, please don’t mention this post to her!