The Christmas season in Mexico officially ended two days ago, on January 6th with Día de Reyes (Three Kings’ Day). Although I’m Catholic, before coming to Mexico I could not have told you much about the Epiphany feast day that is so commonly celebrated here. So a few days ago, I learned about the day that includes presents for children, a delicious cake and plastic baby dolls.
Every family has their own traditions about when they give gifts, but for many families, January 6th is when kids get toys from the three Reyes Magos. Rather than write to Santa, children get to ask for three toys that come from the Three Wise Men. Traditionally, children leave their shoes out at night and wake to find presents in the morning.
Apart from the toys, the Rosca de Reyes is the most ubiquitous element of the holiday. The rosca is a round ringed cake, usually decorated with candied fruits and filled with a mixture of nuts and dried fruit. The pastry is similar to the Kings Cake that many people enjoy on Mardi Gras in New Orleans. (It tastes especially good when paired with a warm atole, which is a corn-based beverage).
Families gather together to cut, or partir the cake on the 6th, however you can easily find roscas throughout the week, as they are common at offices and additional social gatherings. This time of year they’re sold at every bakery and some savvy vendors set up special rosca stands along the side of the main road.
Every rosca has at least one little plastic baby baked into it. According to tradition, if you cut a piece of cake that has the baby, you are the godparent of the little doll and should take it to church to have it blessed. Additionally, every person that finds a plastic doll is responsible for paying for the tamales for Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas Day) on February 2nd. The Candelaria is another religious holiday, and tamales appear to be a necessary element of the celebration- as they should be!
Yesterday, we ate a rosca at the University and I was one of six people to get a little plastic doll in my piece of cake. Luckily I saw it before I tried to take a bite! So I guess I’ll be paying for some of the tamales in a few weeks…
For more about Los Reyes Magos (Spanish link)
How to make your own Rosca de Reyes!