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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, March 3, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesChristiansted Holds Feast of Epiphany

Christiansted Holds Feast of Epiphany

After a long tramp into Christiansted at the crack of dawn with the imitable Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights, hundreds feasted for free, laughed with friends and jumped to the music Monday at the annual All Ah We Three Kings Day tramp and Cruzan-Rican Breakfast.

Traditionally Three King’s Day is also known as the feast of the Epiphany, on which children receive Christmas season gifts. It is said that if a child has been good for the past year, he or she will receive candies, sweets or toys. A major holiday in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and much of Latin America, it has long been an important celebration in the Virgin Islands, especially among its people of Latin heritage.

Rather than getting presents from Santa Claus on Christmas day, children get presents from the three wise kings who brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus 12 days later.

Leading the tramp were the Three Kings, in robes, crowns and beards, played this year by Vicente Pesanta, Sen. Sammuel Sanes and Luis Cuencas. It began at Bassin Triangle, flowing through town behind Stanley and the band as they played quelbe Christmas carols, and arriving at the Christian “Shan” Hendricks Vegetable Market, where volunteers served up heaping plates of hot food to all – free of charge.

Many of the cooks and the revelers come back year after year.

"This is the eighth time we’ve done this since George "Bagoon" O’Reilly started it and every year since the beginning we have come out," said Gilberto "Jun" Belardo, who, along with his wife Wanda Belardo and the whole family, have been volunteering time, food and energy to cook for the crowd since 2005. "It’s all donated food and time, just to do something to give back a little," he said.

This year they brought saltfish, johnny cakes, teetee bread and box cheese, cornmeal pap and more, just for breakfast, said Wanda Belardo. "Later for lunch we will have peas and rice and roast pork."

Jun Belardo, meanwhile, carefully minded a whole roast pig he was grilling in a custom-built portable roaster.

Former Agriculture Commissioner Henry Petersen, who was cooking up heaps of fresh, hot omelets for the crowd, said: "We’ve been coming out since it started."

"This is our second time at the breakfast," said Les Edmund, who was getting an omelet from Petersen with his wife, Irene. The Edmunds live in San Francisco but used to live on the island and try to get back to the holidays, he said.

This was St. Croix resident Gloria Gordon’s seventh breakfast. She donated food, frying up spicy baccalaito (saltfish cakes) for the throngs. "They need to be fried on the spot because they have to be served fresh and hot," she said.

Gordon also likes to celebrate Three Kings Day by crafting and wearing a different festive hat with seasonal and cultural elements. Last year a Danish windmill formed the centerpiece, with a flag-waving mocko jumbie and a madras-clad figure dancing amid holly sprigs, red poinsettia leaves and brightly colored Christmas tree bulbs around its base.

This year her hat depicted the theme "All Ah We Are Carnival," and this year’s change from calling it "festival" to "carnival." It also reflects the yearly "All Ah We Breakfast" in honor of Bagoon O’Reilly, she said.

O’Reilly, a popular radio host and indefatigable supporter of the St. Croix Christmas Festival, started the tradition and spearheaded it for its first three years, along with Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis. O’Reilly and Francis, then the St. Croix administrator, decided to start a teetee bread bake-off and hold it on the first Tuesday of the year, which happened to be Three Kings Day in 2005. Francis continued the tradition after O’Reilly’s passing in 2008.

With St. Croix’s Digital Band and Hartatak Band getting the market square crowd jumping, the street party and holiday feast kept rolling along until after noon, when, tired and full, the revelers began drifting off toward home.

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