Who said that the Christmas season has ended?

The Three Wise Men visit newborn Jesus from a painting by Hans Baldung Grien, a German Renaissance artist. Some scholars argue that there may have been as many as 12 wise men.

In México and Spain today is a day that rivals Christmas. It is the Día de los Tres Reyes Magos or the day of the three kings. But for religious Costa Ricans, the day heralds another custom, that of communal prayer just before the nativity scene is put away until next year.

The Tres Reyes Magos are the three kings who the Bible said brought gifts to the infant Jesus. Much has been written and researched about this event despite limited biblical information. In Spain and México children receive the bulk of their seasonal gifts on this day. Here in Costa Rica today will be celebrated by expats from those countries.

For Costa Ricans, the day marks the end of the Christmas season and time to take down the home portal or nativity scene. This is much too important just to dump the tiny figures into a box. This is a time to invite neighbors and relatives for another fiesta. And time to put the Christ Child to sleep.

There certainly will be great food and some form of music. Maybe even a small band and perhaps fireworks left over from New Year’s.

This is not a country event. Major sports and social clubs and organizations in San José are planning their Rezar al Niño, too. Technically, the event must take place before Palm Sunday, the day before Easter. Hardly anyone wants to keep their nativity scene up that long, so January and early February are the favored times for praying to the Baby Jesus.

The centerpiece of the evening is the recitation of the Catholic Rosary. This is not unusual in religious homes because such gatherings take place weekly. However, Rezar al Niño generally has a master or mistress of ceremonies of sorts who leads the group.

There is some religious discussion on the effectiveness of saying the Rosary. Some prefer spontaneous prayer instead of the standardized prayers of the Rosary. The Catholic Rosary is a string of five sets of 10 beads with a larger one before each set. The idea is that the beads help the faithful keep track of the number of prayers that have been said. Now there are reports that the Rosary has migrated to the iPod. Rosary beads sometimes can be found dangling from the rearview mirror in taxis.

Once around the beads requires the recitation of

The Three Wise Men visit newborn Jesus from
a painting by Hans Baldung Grien, a German Renaissance artist. Some scholars argue that there may have been as many as 12 wise men.

50 “Hail Marys” and five “Our Fathers.” Other religions have similar devices.

At the Rezar al Niño the prayers may alternate with the music. Perhaps a musician with a guitar is accompanied by appropriate hymns.

A wealthy household may have an elaborate musical presentation.

Technically the full recitation of the Rosary requires three trips around the 55 beads and as many prayers. But with the children getting restless, the food getting cold and the faithful getting hungry, one third of that number is the usual standard.

Those who supervise the Rezar al Niño sometimes do this as an occupation, so a small collection is taken.

Despite the religious nature of the event, a little guaro or wine can lubricate the vocal chords of all those guests who have been praying for the last hour. Some Costa Ricans may attend five or six such events as the Christmas season winds down.

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