Many countries, espelcially Mexico, celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings, or Epiphany, on January 6th with a special pastry called Rosca de Reyes.
In Mexico, Dia de Reyes (The Three Kings Day or Magi) is even more important than Christmas. The Zocalo and surrounding plazas and parks become giant shrines to the Magi, and many people set up life-size mangers and dress up as the three kings. It’s quite a site!
The three kings bring better presents to kids than at Christmas time, too. This tradition is stronger in Ciudad de Mexico than it is in the northern states where I grew up. We use to put a pair of shoes outside our bedrooms, and hope that the Magi would leave us something. We usually got candy and sometimes small things like coloring books and crayons.
Families also keep their Christmas decorations up until January 6. If you were to pop by our home, you’d see our holiday décor is also still up!
On January 6 families get together to mark the end of the holiday season. The traditional food for Dia de Reyes includes having tamales, hot chocolate, champurrado, and the rosca.
The Rosca de Reyes has a hidden baby Jesus figure baked into the bread. The cutting of the rosca is somewhat ceremonial because no one knows who will be the lucky person to get the plastic figure in their slice. Be careful before taking that first bite!
One of the traditions attached to the discovery of the baby is that the winner will have to host another gathering. This party is held on February 2, or Dia de la Candelaria, the day baby Jesus is traditionally presented to the church.
As a child growing up in Mexico, I loved dressing up our baby Jesus and putting the crown on him. We would get together with our neighbors and have a simple dinner with tamales, beans and more hot chocolate!
Things have changed a lot since I was a kid. We raised our children observing these traditions, and though they are grown and live on their own, I still run out to buy a Rosca and tamales to mark the end of our holiday season.
What cultural traditions do you observe over the holidays?