Wearing a fake beard, a golden turban, and a long robe, Ronald Elie strolled through City Hall bearing gifts.
As he has for the last few years, Elie, who works in the the City Clerk’s Office, was dressed as one of the three magi for the Three Kings Day Celebration, also known as the Feast of the Epiphany.
The holiday is celebrated on Jan. 6 in Puerto Rico, around the Caribbean, and in many Latin American countries. This year, the Boston City Hall celebration had to be rescheduled for Tuesday because of last week’s snow.
“It’s part of my culture,” said Elie, a native of Venezuela. “I grew up with it and I want everybody to know about it.” Elie portrayed Gaspar, one of the three Biblical wise men, who was said to have brought Jesus gold as the infant lay in the manger. (The other wise men, according to the Gospel of Matthew, brought frankincense and myrrh.)
This year’s event was especially important, Elie said. City employees donated more than 200 gifts for 153 Puerto Rican children in Boston ages 2 to 18 whose families found themselves displaced from their island home by Hurricane Maria last fall. City Hall’s Latinx Employee Resource Group started collecting toys and other donations in early December, according to Natalia Urtubey, executive director of Imagine Boston 2030, a city planning initiative in Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office, and liaison for the resource group. “We wanted kids to get joy from this experience,” Urtubey said, “to have an opportunity for kids to feel loved while they’re here.”
The group held wrapping parties to package all the Legos, coloring books, games, stuffed animals, and arts and crafts. Elie was charged with buying a present for a 5-year-old girl. He bought the same present he got his 6-year-old daughter, a Barbie and Ken doll with a toy pool.
“I just wanted to do something so this kid could have the same as my kid,” Elie said. “It’s not my kid, but I wanted to put that smile on her face.”
In Venezuela, Three Kings Celebration is considered a “little Christmas” where kids wait for presents, he said. In some families, children leave out hay and water for the camels that the three kings were said to have ridden to the manger where Jesus was born.
The City Hall event was initially set for Friday, but officials were forced to delay it because of the massive snow storm. On Tuesday, city officials, employees, and representatives from the local Mexican and Dominican consulates shared a meal at the Three Kings Celebration, including rice, pork, and other Latino dishes.Cristela Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.