Traditions of Día De Los Reyes
©Tara A. Spears
Three Kings Day, or Feast of the Epiphany, is always celebrated on January 6. This date is often considered the last day of the 12 days of the Christmas season. Dia de los Reyes is mostly observed in Mex ico and Latin America. This day marks when the magi brought gifts to the baby Jesus. Hispanic families will usually celebrate Three Kings Day with a gathering of extended family to share a special dinner that is topped off with the King’s Bread (Rosca de Reyes) for dessert. Children sometimes make crowns to wear at the table in honor of the kings.
Sweet bread/Rosca De Reyes
Traditionally this special bread is baked into a round shape to signify a King’s crown. The Rosca de Reyes is a staple of the holiday and sold in most stores a few days before the 6th. Hidden within the sweet bread is a “baby Jesus” figurine — the individual who finds the toy in their slice must then prepare tamales for everyone on the Day of the Candles, which is celebrated on February 2.
Recipe to make your own bread:
– 6 cups flour
– 3 tablespoons yeast
– 5 egg yolks
– 5 eggs
– 1/2 cup of margarine
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 2 teaspoons orange blossom water
– candied fruit
– 1 egg for brushing
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 lemon zest
Dissolve the yeast into 4 tablespoons of warm water and add 1/2 a cup of flour to form a small ball of dough. Let it sit for 30 min. in a warm place until it has almost doubled in size.
Make a ring shape with the rest of the flour and pour the eggs, 1/2 a cup of sugar, and the salt in the middle. Mix together and then add the egg yolks, the orange blossom water, the lemon zest, the margarine and the small ball of dough. Knead together well, make a ball and let it rest in a warm place covering it with a damp towel for 20 min. until it’s grown in size substantially.
Knead again and form a large ring (or two smaller ones). Press a toy into the dough before placing in a buttered and floured tray. Brush the bread with a beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Before putting it in the oven, decorate the top with the candied fruit. Bake until golden.
Another component of the celebration involves gifts. Children leave their shoes right outside their doors so the Three Kings will leave their gifts inside the shoes, with bigger presents placed around the shoes.
Grass for the Camels
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.
The charming observance of Dia de los Reyes is a fun way to wrap up the Christmas holiday season. If you have domestic workers- maids, yard man- it would be appropriate to give them a little gift.