Later today, I’m planning to celebrate el Día de los Reyes with my fiancee’s family. Yesterday, I made the mistake of assuming this was going to be another tequila party, since most of the Mexican festivities tend to go that route. My fiancee looked at me like I was crazy and said with his Costeño accent, “Eet’s not a party! Eet’s bread with hot chocolate! And if ju get the beibi doll, ju haf tu trow the party nex taim.” Ah, ok. Now I understand. And I’m supposedly the crazy one here?
Since I have a tendency to think a lot of the traditional customs are a little cuckoo before I understand them, I decided to do a little further investigation into this holiday so I could share the knowledge with you all.
So, the basic premise of this major holiday is it’s held on January 6th and commemorates the arrival of the three kings with gifts for baby Jesus. Traditionally, Mexican children do not receive their gifts on Christmas Day, but instead on January 6th. It is understandable, then, why this is an important holiday for old and young alike!
Just as many American children leave milk and cookies for Santa, Mexican families also leave an offering for the three kings on the evening before they arrive. They traditionally leave out their shoes (or small boxes) with a little bit of hay (for the reindeer–er, camels). In the morning, the hay is gone and is replaced with gifts for the children from the kings.
Another custom, and one I in which I will participate for the first time today, is eating sweet bread in the shape of a wreath with a baby Jesus figurine hidden inside. The bread is called “Rosca de Reyes,” with “rosca” translating to wreath. The tradition with the little baby Jesus doll, “el muñequito,” comes from the Biblical story of how baby Jesus had to be hidden from King Herod, who wanted to kill him. Whoever gets the piece of bread with the figurine inside is supposed to host a party with tamales on February 2, which is el Día de las Candelarias.
Ay ay ay, I’ll have to find out more about that one and get back to you!! That is, if this doesn’t become another all-night fiesta!