The Ramirez family is spending a more subdued Three Kings Day in their Arleta home. Fighting back what is likely to be a cold still has them concerned enough about COVID-19 and its latest mutation to make a decision to keep “safe at home.”

Even though they’ve tested and know they don’t have COVID-19, they know their immune system is down and they’re taking a “better to be safe than sorry” approach — foregoing having extended family into their home which can increase their risk for exposure.

“We are definitely celebrating – we’ll have our traditional Rosca de Reyes [Wreath of Kings] sweet bread and chocolate, but only with my husband and immediate family,” said Norma Ramirez.

It’s a bit of disappointment and departure for them, as their home is well known in the local community for being very welcoming of friends, family and students at Mission College where Norma’s husband, Jose, has been a longtime counselor. Many a student has been fed at the Ramirez home.

Norma and Jose Ramirez with Mateo, the newest member of their family. 

But this year, Norma and Jose’s son and his wife welcomed Mateo — their first baby and the happy grandparents are helping with his care so they are being careful, especially after hearing that babies under age 1 might be at higher risk for severe illness if they contract COVID-19.

They are heeding the advice from LA County Public Health to stay home if they feel sick and to wear an N95 mask if they must leave home for any reason.

LA County Public Health has noted the leap of cases due to recent holiday gatherings. Many have “normalized” the virus and taken a point of view that even if they get the virus, it will be a quick recovery. But LA County Public Health is concerned that the virus will continue to spread if people stop getting vaccinated and refuse to mask and continue to hold large gatherings.

The Ramirez couple plans on making calls to their extended family and will pick up their rosca from their favorite panaderia,but this year, they’ll probably have to cut several pieces of the rosca before getting the small figurine of baby Jesus. And because they’ll be the only ones cutting it, there is no question, they’ll have to host a gathering on Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas) on Feb. 2.

Which raises the next question — will they feel comfortable in hosting friends and extended family for a celebration next month?

“It’s kind of depressing still not being able to see people and do what you once did. Practicing our traditions is important to us, but my son is also being very careful and strict with us –  we are regularly testing ourselves,” said Ramirez, who emphasized that in the long run, the sacrifices they are making now are to ensure a healthy future for all of them.

“No one wants to put the newest addition to our family at risk,” she said.

She’s looking forward to sharing the story of the Los Reyes Magos — Three Kings — with her grandchild and teaching him their family’s traditions and the way they celebrate the Epiphany — the culmination of the 12 days of Christmas, the day when, according to Christian tradition, the Three Wise Men — Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar — hailing from different areas of the world and guided by the Christmas Star, arrived in Bethlehem bearing gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense to the newly born baby Jesus.

Practicing the adage, “Your health is your wealth,” the Ramirez family sees the correlation – their gift of health to their family’s newest addition is “gold.”