kings2.JPG Puerto Ricans love their holidays! According to our rental car agent, the party starts at Thanksgiving and keeps going til late in January!!  Today we attended the current party, the ThreeKings Festival, in the self proclaimed “Bethlehem of Puerto Rico”,  Juana Diaz.   Three Kings Day celebrates the arrival of the three Kings at the birthplace of the baby Jesus.  The night before, children leave out hay for the Three King’s horses and are rewarded with gifts in the morning.  We made the mistake of being in Plaza Las Americas, yesterday in San Juan, and the mall was packed.  Puerto Ricans love their parties, children, boats and love to shop!  The toy store there was nearly empty of toys.  I have never seen that before!

Today, we headed to Juana Diaz early, as we heard it gets very crowded.  It is just north of Ponce and took only about 20 minutes to get there, and it was already packed at 9:30 am.  People were parked everywhere and we were driving around looking for a parking space.  Of course, I drive the wrong way down a one way street.  The street is crowded with cars parked along it, so I squeeze over to an empty space, right under a “No Estacione” (no parking) sign to let the cars pass who ARE going the right way.  As I am waiting, Dan spots a policeman on a motorcycle headed toward us. 

“He’s going to say something to you about going the the wrong way on a one way street!”

But no.  He passes on.  I wait patiently, facing the wrong way, in a no parking spot waiting as two more cars and another policeman pass me.  Finally, I am thinking, I am just going to park here.  The police have already seen me, and maybe on a day like today they don’t care where you park.  I see a gentleman walking on the street toward the car and I roll down my window.

“Excuse me.  Do you think I can park here?”  I ask.

He looks at me, looks at the no parking sign, looks down the street, then says, “You are going the wrong way on a one way street.”

“Yes,” I acknowledge the obvious.  “But if I was going the right way, would I be able to park here?”

 He looks at me again, then steps into the middle of the road to stop traffic.  He guides me forward and back, in the crowded narrow street, helping me to turn around and repark the correct way under the no parking sign.  What a gentleman!

Leaving our fabulous, close to the action parking spot, we head to the festivities.  It is not as crowded as I thought as we make our way over to join the crowds lining the street for the parade.  The parade comes down the street with the Three Kings, then ends at the stage in the Plaza, where the Three Kings will join the priests on stage for a mass.  Anyone can join the parade if they are dressed as a shepherd.  We opt to just watch.  And what a parade!  No wonder it didn’t seem to crowded yet to me, as everyone was IN the parade!  We watched in the heat for over an hour as shepherds, and marching bands, and trucks blaring music from huge speakers, beauty queens, and babies, and baby Jesus’ and floats carrying Mary and Joseph went by.  And it was hot.  But it was great.  It got me to thinking that I don’t remember taking Tristan and Tessa to parades when we were in the States.  That made me a little sad, as both my parents and Dan’s parents took us to lots of parades when we were growing up.  But if you get to see parades, Junkanoo and Three Kings are certainly ones to see!

After the Three Kings on horseback passed us, we made our way to the park to watch them enter, under the archway, into the plaza and onto the stage/alter.  The Kings were treated like Rock Stars.  Everyone wanted to shake their hand or get a picture of them.  While Dan and Tessa stayed under the shade, Tristan and I stood next to the walkway where the kings would pass.   We were so happy when King Baltasar shook our hand!!    They really worked the crowds and it took another half hour just to get all the Kings on the stage/altar.  By now it was so hot, some people were starting to faint.  If we were smart, we would have brought umbrellas to keep the sun off of us as many of the people did.  By the time the Kings finally made it to the stage, we were very hot and thirsty.  After getting some water, we went through the vendor tents to see the beautiful artwork for sale.  We sampled some of the food, and even though the party went on until late at night with more music, by 2:00 pm, under darkening skies, we were ready to go. 

All the way home, the kids, expecially Tristan, couldn’t stop talking about it.  He kept saying how glad he was we went.  It was a great time.  It wasn’t tacky, it was tasteful, and festive.  The music was upbeat, and it was touching to see the older people smiling, shaking maracas and singing to the music.  Families, from the elder, to the youngest, enjoying time together, that was so great to see.  Can you tell we love Puerto Rico?

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100_30171.JPG The music system  kkkkk1.JPG kkkk.JPG Local celebrities