Dia de los Tres Reyes – Three Kings Day – Epiphany in Cancun!
The twelve days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day, December 25th and end on the Twelfth Night, January 5th . In Mexico, on January 6th, traditionally the last day of the Christmas season, we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings Day (Día de Reyes, in spanish). Traditionally, families get together for a cup of hot chocolate and a piece of sweet “Rosca de Reyes”, or Three Kings Bread.
In Mexico, Spain and other Latin countries it is when children receive the majority of their gifts from the Three Kings, or “Reyes Magos” rather than from Santa Claus at Christmas. Before going to bed the children place their old shoes or a box filled with grass or hay under their bed for the camels with a wish list on top for the Three Kings. In the morning the shoes or box is filled with toys & gifts from the Three Kings.
According to legend based on scripture (Matthew 2:1-12) this day commemorates the Three Wise Men, Melchior, Gaspar and Baltazar, who followed the star to Bethlehem, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They travel to Bethlehem, and along the way encountered King Herod, whom they tell of the birth of the new King. Herod orders them to find the baby and return to tell him where the Messiah could be found so that he may pay homage. After being warned by God in a dream that they should not return to Herod because he planned on killing the baby, they returned to their own countries another way.
The scripture does mention the three gifts but does not say how many came to visit. It was always assumed that if there were three gifts, then there were probably three people. Scholars estimate the number to be 2-12, possibly more. Are you wondering why they make such a big deal out of when the Kings came and not when the shepherds or others visited? It’s because the “Kings” (Wise Men or Magi) who brought gifts to the infant Jesus were the first Gentiles (non-Jews) to acknowledge Jesus as “King” and in doing so, the first to reveal that Jesus came for all people, from all nations and races.
Rosca de Reyes – Three Kings Bread
The Rosca de Reyes is a ring-shaped bread with very small plastic dolls baked inside, which represent the baby Jesus. The figure symbolizes the hiding of the infant from King Herod’s troops. According to tradition whoever finds the figure in their slice of sweet bread must give a party on February 2nd, Candlemas Day or Dia de la Candelaria, offering tamales and atole (a hot, sweet drink thickened with corn flour) or Mexican hot chocolate to their guests. Candlemas is the day that Mary presented the infant Jesus to the temple and is traditionally the day that candles are blessed in the Catholic Church.
It is best to pre-order a Rosca de Reyes at a Mexican bakery or panaderia. When ordering at other bakeries ask for a King’s Cake, Louisiana-style which is basically the same thing. Or, if you like to cook, you can also take a look at this recipe for a Rosca de Reyes!
Happy Día de Reyes from Cancun!
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