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On January 6th, many families celebrate Three Kings Day, my family in Mexico especially. Three Kings Day is a big deal for the kids, because it’s the day the Kings bring them gifts, just as they brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Baby Jesus.
We also celebrate the day by cutting into our Rosca de Reyes, the delicious, wreath-shaped bread with hidden surprises inside that we dip into our favorite Mexican hot chocolate.
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Here’s a bit about the tradition of the rosca as my family celebrates it.
The Bible tells us in Matthew that the Three Kings were summoned by King Herod and asked to let him know where they find the Baby Jesus, so he can pay homage, too. After visiting Jesus, The Three Kings are warned in dreams to go back home by a different road, instead of returning to tell Herod where Jesus is.
Furious, Herod orders all children younger than two be killed in or near Bethlehem to eliminate this potential rival. The Holy Family escapes to Egypt.
Symbolism of the Rosca de Reyes:
In my family’s tradition…
- The circular form of the rosca represents God’s eternal love which has no beginning or end.
- The sugar and fruit on top represent worldly distractions that keep us from finding Jesus.
- The small doll inside the rosca represents the Baby Jesus who was visited by the Three Kings and hidden away from King Herod.
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Candlemas (Día de la Candelaria)
In Mexico, as I’ve mentioned, roscas generally have small dolls inside that represent Baby Jesus, even though today you can find roscas that have other figurines inside like the Three Kings, Mary, Joseph, camels, sheep, etc.
During the Three Kings Day celebration, we cut the rosca, and those who discover the small Baby Jesus doll inside become Padrinos (Godparents). The Padrinos must dress the family’s Baby Jesus doll (this one is a bit bigger, see photo above) with new clothes and present him at the church on February 2nd, also known as Candlemas. Later in the day, the Padrinos are responsible for throwing a party celebrating the day with a traditional menu of tamales and atole.
¡Felíz Día de los Reyes!