Writer Sandra Cisneros (b. 1954) grew up between two worlds as her family moved back and forth between Chicago and Mexico City. In this 1990 short story, a Mexican family recently arrived in Texas receives an oversized Christmas present from the children’s school principal. However, the children are not allowed to open it until January 6th in observance of the Spanish tradition of exchanging gifts on Three Kings’ Day. This holiday (also known as the Feast of Epiphany) marks the Biblical adoration of the baby Jesus by the three Kings, also known as the three Wise Men or Magi.Describe the Gonzalez family. Why are they so excited about the “big box”? What do we learn about the family from what they imagine the gift to be? What is their reaction to the gift, and how do they end up using it? Is the gift a good one? Why or why not? Who are the “wise guys” of the story’s title? What wisdom do they impart (or learn) about the giving and receiving of gifts?
The big box came marked DO NOT OPEN TILL XMAS, but the mama said not until the Day of the Three Kings. Not until Dia de los Reyes, the sixth of January, do you hear? That is what the mama said exactly, only she said it all in Spanish. Because in Mexico where she was raised, it is the custom for boys and girls to receive their presents on January sixth, and not Christmas, even though they were living on the Texas side of the river now. Not until the sixth of January.
Read the story.
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