“El Día de los Reyes Magos” is a festivity celebrated in many Spanish-speaking countries on January 6th. The day honors the three wise men: Gaspar, Melchor & Baltasar (Gaspar/Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar) who traveled for days just to give a newborn Jesus Christ gifts which included gold as he is a king, incense as he is God, and myrrh as he is human.
The festivity was first celebrated in Europe in countries such as Spain which later brought the tradition to Latin America. It is celebrated differently across different countries, so today I’ll be explaining how I celebrated the day in Mexico. It is worth mentioning that even within Mexico, different cities and states celebrate the holiday differently. Although some people feel indifferent about it since it is a religious practice and not an official national holiday, one doesn’t need to be religious to celebrate it though.
Catholics will most likely be found visiting a church and attending mass during this day. However, the staple activity this day is to cut “la Rosca de Reyes”, an oval-shaped sweet bread that is hollow in the middle and is decorated on the top with candied fruit, usually “membrillo” (quince paste) that is colored green, yellow, and red. Within the week of the festivity, people can cut more than one Rosca since there is usually more than one celebration a single person partakes in. For example, people can celebrate at home, at work, and school. The Rosca is usually served as dessert and hidden inside is a small baby Jesus figure (in my experience, it is usually a couple). The baby Jesus is made out of plastic, so people need to be careful and not ingest it by accident. In my city, we also accompanied the Rosca with champurrado, a beverage made with chocolate atole. When everyone is served a piece of la Rosca everyone looks in their piece to see if they got the baby Jesus or not. Finding a baby in your piece is commonly seen as an omen that will give you good luck for the whole year.
However, whoever found baby Jesus in their piece of Rosca also has to bring tamales to everyone present in “el Día de la Candelaria” which is another Catholic festivity celebrated on February 2nd. The name of the festivity is in honor of “La Virgen de La Candelaria,” a Marian apparition that took place in the Canary Islands. The festivity celebrates the day Jesus was brought to the Temple of Jerusalem 40 days after his birth. Roughly around that time, the same group of people who cut the Rosca together will meet in a second potluck to celebrate and eat the tamales that the people who got the baby Jesus brought.