While many of us are unwinding from Christmas and New Year’s festivities, little nippers in Mexico are all charged up for another dose of holiday cheer with the January 6 celebration of Dia de Reyes (Three Kings Day).
Known in English as Epiphany, it is a religious holiday commemorating the revelation of the Christ Child as the Messiah, represented in scripture by the story of the Three Wise Men who followed the star to Bethlehem, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
For Mexican children, this is the exciting day to wake up and find presents brought by mysterious overnight visitors. They grow up believing that Los Reyes Magos (Magi) come while they sleep to leave them toys and holiday treats, just as they delivered treasures to the Baby Jesus. Before tucking into bed on January 5, youngsters customarily place their shoes and a wish list under their beds or next to the household nativity scene in anticipation that they’ll rise to find them filled with surprises.
The Three Kings are slated to appear in Ajijic on January 6 around 6 p.m. Decked out in regal finery, they will take a spin around the village dispensing sweets and treats to children welcoming them along the way. The tour usually ends where the local kids gather for a piñata bashing free-for-all.
The royal trio will show up in downtown in Chapala just after sunset, handing out gifts and goodies as they parade along Avenida Madero on route to the San Francisco Church. Spectators congregating at the church entrance will be invited to share slices of Rosca de Reyes to crown off the festivities.
Rosca de Reyes
Throughout the first week of January, local bakeries and grocery outlets are stocked with Rosca de Reyes, the crown-shaped lightly sweetened bread decorated with jewel-like candied fruits that is the centerpiece for a traditional Kings Day holiday gathering. Before the loaves go in the oven, bakers stuff one or more tiny dolls into the raw dough. The infant figures symbolize hiding the Christ Child from the bloodthirsty King Herod.
Excitement builds as families and friends take turns cutting into the rosca, knowing that anyone whose slice is studded with a baby will become a godparent of the Baby Jesus and by extension, host for a traditional Candlemas tamale feast held on February 2, the final chapter of the Mexico’s prolonged Christmas season.