Crucians rise before sun for Three Kings Day Tramp


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ST. CROIX - The sleeping town of Christiansted was awoken Monday morning by the sweet sounds of quelbe music belting out of speakers during the traditional Crucian-Rican Three Kings Day Tramp and Breakfast.

The streets were still dark as residents and visitors from all directions began making their way to Sunday Market Square where Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights were waiting to make the annual trek down King Street and Hospital Street and up Company Street to Christian "Shan" Hendricks Vegetable Market where breakfast was waiting.

Most of the participants were dressed in tramping gear, including shorts and sneakers, jeans, cut-off shirts, leggings and other comfortable clothing, while others took their tramp costume to the next level as they donned sequined dresses, crowns, bathrobes, pajamas, 2014 sunglasses, oversized hats, suspenders, huge afro wigs, colored hair pieces and more. A few men wore dresses, and one man was dressed as an oversized bush. And all, no matter what their attire, contributed to the festive spirit of the event.

Jan. 6 was Three Kings Day, or Epiphany, the 12th day after Christmas, when the Magi arrived bearing gifts for baby Jesus.

Traditionally, children throughout Latin America, Spain and in Hispanic communities in the United States receive gifts on this day, brought by the three kings, Melchor, Gaspar and Baltazar.

The night before the celebration, children traditionally leave a little bit of hay in their shoes or under their beds to feed the animals that come with the kings to bring their presents.

Dressed in their festive garb, the three kings led the street party casting blessings and best wishes for the new year on those along the route.

Luis Alicea drove the first truck and said he was proud to see how the celebration had been growing. He said Three Kings Day has long been a grand celebration in Puerto Rico and some aspects of that celebration have been adopted on St. Croix.

While there is no traditional parade, he said people dressed as the three kings have been consistently taking part in the Crucian Christmas Festival and Carnival parades, and were present in Estate Profit on Sunday handing out gifts to children.

As the tramp made its way down King Street, those who had earlier lined the streets on both side, slowly got pulled into the procession as it passed.

Band leader Stanley Jacobs, shouted greetings when the music stopped at several points along the way. The crowd responded waving colorful towels in the air that had been passed out by a few political hopefuls and businesses.

Trampers danced heartily. Some did a little two-step down the road, while others got down and funky, rolling their waist, bending their knees and getting down to the ground. They laughed, hugged and exchanged greetings.

Ahead of the tramp at the market, Gloria Joseph, and the many others who helped with organizing the event, were busy stacking pots and pans and boxes and trays of food on the long concrete tables.

Even before the tramp reached the market, about 50 people had already started to form a line that snaked down the stairs of the market, across the parking lot and into the street.

"This takes a lot of preparation and cooperation to get done, and this year was very hard because a lot of families that participated, have moved away since the refinery closed," Joseph said. "But by the grace of God, we did it."

She said the residents in the community have always look forward to the event and the core group of organizers enjoy pulling it all together as a way to foster relationships in the community.

Joseph said the breakfast spread eventually turns into a brunch with favorites like saltfish, eggs, ham, sausage, omelettes, salmon balls, roasted pork, titi bread, johnny cakes, pumpkin and banana fritters, chop chop, chicken soup, souse, hot cereals, bush teas, local drinks and more.

Shadrach Gill boasted about how good his cornmeal porridge was as it was scooped from a large pan and into small cups to be served. He said he was proud to be able to contribute to the event because it is an example of how the community operated when he was growing up.

"It didn't matter who you were, we used to share with each other, look out for each other and take care of each other," Gill said. "For the most part, that has changed, but days like today give us an opportunity to look back and remember those days and live them for a moment."

He said of the hundreds of people who come home to St. Croix for the season, many look forward to the tramp and breakfast and he is glad that they can leave not being disappointed.

The festivities of the day ran on into the afternoon with music by Digital Band, Hartatak Band and DJ Hatma and lots more dancing and celebrating.

- Contact Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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