For Christians in many parts of the world, January 6, Epiphany or Three Kings Day has a special meaning and Mexico is no exception, it is marked by processions, masses and a joyous fiesta that brings families together. As this important festival commemorates the visit of the Three Kings or Magi bearing gifts to the Christ child, it is awaited eagerly by children throughout the country who traditionally receive presents on this day.
Through the adoration of the Three Kings, Jesus was revealed to the world as the Son of God. Hence the name Epiphany, which is derived from the ancient Koine Greek word epiphaneia, meaning “to show or make known,” “to reveal,” “appearance,” or “manifestation.” Different churches have their own observances and as the Eastern Orthodox Church holds to the Julian calendar as opposed to the calendar used by the Western church, it celebrates Epiphany or Theophany on January 19 and commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.
Actors representing the Three Kings or Tres Reyes Magos
There are many traditions associated with Epiphany to remind one of the Three Wise Men, Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar, their long journey from the east following the star that led them to the lowly manger in Bethlehem, and the caskets of gold, frankincense and myrrh they brought Jesus Christ. Mexico, Guatemala and other Latin American countries share customs that originated in Spain and were introduced by missionaries during the Colonial period. Known as El Día de los Reyes or Día de Reyes or Día de los Reyes Magos, this is the day that many children still receive their gifts, rather than at Christmas.
In Spain children (and many adults) polish and leave their shoes ready for the Kings’ presents before they go to bed on the eve of January 6. Sweet wine, nibbles, fruit and milk are left for the Kings and their mounts – always depicted as a horse, camel and elephant. In the morning, children wake up to find their gifts from the Wise men.
The day is also marked by processions in towns and cities across the country and a traditional cake called Roscón de Reyes (King’s Cake) is also served. Many other countries have their own recipe for this cake associated with the festival of Epiphany, for example in France, Belgium and Switzerland, a galette/gâteau des Rois is served during the Christmas season and in Portugal it is known as a Bolo Rei. In the U.S. state of Louisiana, where French influence is still very much in evidence, king’s cake is associated with the start of the Carnival season and Mardi Gras.
Kings cakes often have a small trinket inside as a symbol of Baby Jesus, and the person who gets a slice of cake with one of these has various privileges and obligations (such as buying the cake for the next celebration).
Artistic representation of The 3 Kings
Epiphany in Mexico – Día de Reyes and Rosca de Reyes (Kings Cake)
In Mexico, it is traditional for children to leave their shoes, along with a letter for the Three Kings telling them how good they have been all year and what toys they would like to receive, by the family nativity scene, the Christmas tree or by their beds on January 5. In Mexico City, children often tie the letter to a balloon and set it free to float towards heaven, while in rural areas, they may fill their shoes with hay for the kings’ steeds and leave a bucket of water for them, so that the wise men will be generous with their gifts.
Rosca de Reyes (King's Cake)
In the morning, the children wake up to find their presents. Later in the day, families and friends gather to drink Mexican hot chocolate or atole (a sweet drink made using corn flour) and eat the Rosca de Reyes, a delicious cake shaped like a ring, topped with dried fruit and a sugar glaze to resemble a crown encrusted with jewels. The cake contains several tiny plastic or porcelain dolls that symbolize Baby Jesus. The fact that the figures are hidden in the dough is said to represent the secrecy needed to protect the child from murderous King Herod and the knife used to cut the cake is a reminder of the grave danger that he was in.
The little plastic dolls stuffed inside the Rosca de Reyes
Candlemass in Mexico
One by one, guests take turns to cut the cake and the tension mounts until all the dolls are found. According to tradition, those with a doll in their slice of cake must host a dinner or party with festive fare – traditionally tamales – on the Día de la Candelaria or Candlemass Day, February 2.
Tamales, a traditional and delicious Mexican treat
In many parts of Mexico, a figure of the Christ child is also taken to church in a basket adorned with flowers and candles on Candlemass Day.
Rosca de Reyes Recipe
We at Royal Resorts know how much our members and guests enjoy our recipes. Here’s a recipe for a delicious Rosca de Reyes that you can enjoy at home. Enjoy!
Rosca de Reyes
The Royal Resorts Recipe
Ingredients: · 4 eggs
· 32g yeast dissolved in cold water
· 80g margarine
· 900g flour
· Baking powder 10g
· Egg white and sugar glaze 18 g
· 130g sugar
· 390g dried fruit (such as candied orange and lemon peel, angelica, cherries, figs, quince, prunes, etc.)
Cream the margarine, add egg and yeast mixture and stir well. Fold in sifted flour and baking powder, stir and knead until the dough forms. Cover and leave to rest in a warm place until it doubles in size. Form a ring with the dough and place on a baking tray. The number of dolls hidden in the rosca depends on the number of people expected to share the cake.
Bake at 280˚C for 60 minutes.
Sprinkle with the dried fruit and sugar and brush with the glaze. A few drops of orange flower water may be added to the sugar glaze.
Did you liked this? Check out how we celebrated Christmas in Mexico.