January 6 is Three King’s Day in Mexico

The Christmas season in Mexico doesn’t end until January 6, a date which is known as Epiphany, a Christian feast day celebrating the revelation of God incarnate in the form of Jesus Christ. In Mexico, this day is known as Three King’s Day, a very important date for the children of Mexico because it marks the arrival of the three men who, like Santa Claus, come bearing gifts for the kids. The celebration of January 6 goes back to the first years of evangelization in the New World and continues to this day. In today’s blog we will look at these and festivities that occur on this date.

Origin/Myth

Guided by a brilliant bright star, the three kings journeyed to their destination in Bethlehem aboard their individual animal of choice- a camel, horse and elephant to visit and pay respects to the Baby Jesus. Each one came from diverse parts of the world, and as such are represented distinctly as being black, white, and arab in features. Each one of these men bore gifts that would be presented to the newly born baby Jesus; gold, mirr and frankincense. The kings were a symbolic representation of the first gentiles converted to Christianity.

Children begin by writing a letter to Melchior, Gaspar and Baltazar telling them what toys they wish to receive. On the eve of January 5, they leave their shoes by the window, along with some biscuits and water for the visitors and their animals, who are no doubt hungry and thirsty after their long trek. The following morning, the children awaken and find the food and water gone, and their shoes filled with toys.

On January 6 families come together and share in eating a traditional rosca de reyes (ring of the kings), a large pastry made in an oval shape . Everyone takes their turn in cutting their own slice of the cake, because inside is awaiting a small surprise: intermixed among the interior of the bread during the baking process are tiny figurines, representing the Baby Jesus. Those who discover one while cutting or eating their slice are obligated to host a dinner at a later date for the others present, made consisting of servings of tamales and atole.

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