Celebrating Three Kings Day in Mexico

The festive celebrations aren’t over yet in Mexico, as January 6th sees in the Three Kings Day otherwise known as the Feast of Epiphany.
Día de los Tres Reyes Magos, as it is known in Spanish, celebrates the arrival of the three wise men to Bethlehem ready to visit the baby Jesus Christ. And with them of course they bear gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
In original Mexican tradition, this is the key day that children receive gifts. On the eve of the 6th, they invite the three kings to stop at their door and bear their gifts. The children leave their shoes on the doorstep in order to let the three kings know where they live, and the shoes will be filled with small gifts inside and larger ones perhaps outside. In more recent times a biscuit and some milk might be left alongside the shoe for the weary travelers.
In the morning once these gifts are received and opened, a round sweet bread is presented for all the family to break into. It is known as rosca de reyes, meaning cake of kings. The bread is shaped into a large ring to resemble a king’s crown and decorated with dried and sugared fruits on the top to resemble jewels found on a crown. The sweet bread might be baked with honey, figs and dates inside to give it its sweet taste.
But the real surprise of what’s inside this bread is a small white plastic figurine of a baby: the baby Jesus Christ. The figure inside the bread alludes to the story of Jesus being hidden and protected from King Herod who, on learning that The Son of God had been born, ordered all babies to be killed.
The family gathers around and the bread is broken into; each person cuts a slice and tentatively waits to see if they have the slice with the baby Jesus inside. And why so tentatively? Because that person will be the one buying the tamales and perhaps even throwing a party on Candlemas (February 2nd), the day baby Jesus is blessed!
Rosca de reyes is traditionally served with tamales and atole. Tamales are a corn wheat dough usually filled with meat, fish fruit or vegetables wrapped and rolled in a cornhusk or banana leaf and served hot. Atole is a delicious hot sweetened corn drink, however in more recent times the Rosca might be served with just a hot chocolate.
Four hundred years ago when the tradition first began, the original breads held a giant uncooked broad bean to represent the baby Jesus and then in later years a porcelain one. Now, plastic figures are most commonly used as they can withstand the heat of the oven.
Other traditions were also hidden in the breads, but unrelated to the Three Kings, including a ring, meaning you would most likely be the next to marry, or a thimble meaning you would likely be single forever!
The religious Christmas calendar is filled with feasts and festivities in Mexico, and this is definitely one tradition worth experiencing sometime.

2017-08-26T23:41:50+00:00 January 4th, 2016|

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