The holidays are known to bring family together. However, it is that same holiday magic that extends far beyond family and is able to connect the hearts of even the most farthest of strangers. Spreading this holiday magic among the residents of Trenton is the Latino Merchant Association of New Jersey, an organization who simply, as co-founder and President Manuel Hernandez says, “just try to make a difference.”

Established in 2007, the Latino Merchant Association of New Jersey is an organized group of members committed to helping enlarge the success of new business owners.

“We are trying to promote and help new business owners coming to big cities like Trenton. We try to help them out with how to start their businesses, how to get loans, and things like that,” explained Hernandez.

The group, having been assembled thirteen years ago, has since then expanded statewide. Prior to this expansion, the organization solely operated within the radius of the Mercer County area. Today, the Latino Merchants of New Jersey aspire to connect to the larger community of the state through their free public events such as their most recent celebration of Three Kings’ Day.

Three Kings’ Day, known as “Dia de los Reyes,” or “The Feast of Epiphany,” takes place on the twelfth day of Christmas and marks the end of the holiday season for many Catholics and Christians.

“Three Kings’ Day is very big in the Latino community. Throughout Latin America it is a day when kids, like back in my country, the Dominican Republic, would receive presents. Its like our Christmas Day like they do over here,” says Hernandez.

The holiday festivities hosted by the organization, however, have not only begun with the celebration of Three Kings’ Day, which occurred on Sunday January 5th, 2020 in Columbus Park. Following Thanksgiving, on December 6, 2019, the group also hosted the lighting of a Christmas tree, located in the front and center of Columbus Park.

“We try to engage with the community, especially with the youth of Trenton. So, for the first time we put up a Christmas tree at Columbus Park. Our “Community Tree” is what we called it because we had the whole community involved. While we were there, we wanted to give out Christmas presents, but we came up with the idea of giving them out on Three Kings’ Day like we do in Latin America,” Hernandez stated.

With a live performance by Son Siete, a traditional Puerto Rican band, along with dozens of cheerful community members gathered together, the celebration was a success.

“The event turned out much better than we expected. We gave out around 400 presents to the kids…We want to make it a tradition here at Columbus Park,” Hernandez says.

To learn more about the Latino Merchant Association of New Jersey and become involved with their events, visit their website at https://latinomerchantsofnj.org.