Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Three Kings Day

Happy Three Kings Day! 

January 6th is el Día de los Reyes Magos, or Three Kings Day / Day of the Wise men, the day that the three wise men arrived bearing gifts for baby Jesus. In Mexico, children write a letter to the magos, telling them what they would like as a gift, and send it off attached to a balloon on January 5th. 

The presents are left during the night for the children to wake up to the morning of the 6th. I'm told that years ago children received presents on Three Kings Day, but not on Christmas. However, blame it on globalization, t.v., immigration, or whatever you'd like, but nowadays most kids are visited by both Santa and the Three Kings bearing gifts during the holidays. 


On the 6th, people share a rosca, an oval-shaped bread decorated with candied fruit. The rosca represents the wise mens' crowns, with the candied fruit representing jewels. There's always  at least one baby Jesus figurine hidden inside. Whoever finds the baby Jesus in their piece is supposed to provide the tamales and the chocolate (like hot chocolate) or atole(a masa-based drink) for everyone on February 2nd, which is Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas or the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple). 

baby Jesus figure hidden inside the rosca

Why tamales and atole? While Mexico is a very Catholic country, many of its traditions and beliefs are the product of sincretismo, the combination of Catholic and Pre-hispanic religions and cultures. Tamales were used as offerings to the gods because they are made of corn, the material used by the gods to create humans. And atole is a masa (corn) - based drink. So, while February 2nd is a Christian celebration, it draws upon Pre-hispanic traditions to celebrate. 

Today wraps up the "Guadalupe-Reyes" holidays. Thought you had it good in the US with Christmas through New Year's? Here the holidays begin December 12 for the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe (hence "Guadalupe") and end el Día de los Reyes Magos ("Reyes").  

Want to read more about holiday traditions in Mexico? Check out some of my previous posts, including: 

-Making piñatas 2010

-Pastorela and Posada with Rotaract 2010 and 2011
-the Posada song in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas 2010
-Christmas in Maltrata, Veracruz in 2011 and 2013, and other Christmas traditions like the Nativity scene"La Rama"posadas, and buñuelos
-Holiday decorations in the Zocalo 2010 and 2012 and Coyoacan 2014
-"Los viejitos" in Maltrata, Veracruz 
-New Year's in Maltrata, Veracruz 2012 and Minatitlan, Veracruz 2014

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