End of Mexican Christmas Season: 3 Kings Day Celebrated
Tara A. Spears
Starting off the new year with the wrap up of the Christmas round of parties occurs with the celebration on January 6. This special day is known as ‘El Dia de Reyes’ (Three Kings Day) in Mexico. The date marks the culmination of the twelve days of Christmas and commemorates the three wise men who traveled from far to bring gifts for the infant baby Jesus.
Three Kings Day remains an important holiday for the people of Mexico as gifts are exchanged. In addition to the gift-giving aspect of the day there is also a culinary treat that is specific to the holiday. Known as ‘Rosca de Reyes’ (King’s Cake), this holiday dessert offers much in the way of symbolism. Shaped in the round to signify a king’s crown, this sweet bread holds a special surprise. Baked inside is a small plastic figurine representing the baby Jesus. Whoever finds this token is ‘king for a day’ but obligated to host an upcoming party- including tamales and atole- for the occasion of ‘Dia de la Candelaria’ (Candlemas Day) which occurs each year on February 2nd.
Besides the good eats and beer, another charming part of the celebration involves the kids. Many families leave a box of grass (or hay) and water for The Three King’s camels to eat. This practice is similar to the tradition of leaving out cookies and milk for Santa Claus. Camels are known for being sloppy eaters, frequently leaving a trail of hay behind; a fun activity is making a grass trail for the children to follow to their gifts. It adds to the excitement and anticipation for the children.
In Jaltemba Bay there are a couple of processions down the main street in Guayabitos and La Penita that finish at the town plazas. But you might find the streets packed with food stalls, visitors, and outdoor parties. While the use of fireworks is not as traditional as on New Year’s Eve, expect to have some after dark on January 6.
Dia de Reyes is a religious celebration so there are no business closings, although many schools are off that day.
Try some sweet bread and enjoy this festive Mexican celebration!