Andreja Brulc's Blog

MEXICO Project: Christmas: The Three Kings and Rosca de Reyes

Posted in MEXICO by andrejabrulc on 06/01/2013

DSC_0401Traditionally Mexican children do not receive presents at Christmas but on 6 January – on the Feast of the Three Magi/Kings (Día de los Tres Reyes Magos, or short, Día de los Reyes), which commemorates the visit of the Three Kings (Melchoir, Caspar, and Balthazar) to the Christ Jesus on the 12-day after his birth, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. During the days preceding the Kings, children write letters to them requesting their present. On the eve of 5 January, the figures of the Magi are placed in the Nativity scene. In some parts of Mexico, children traditionally leave their letter in their shoes by the doorway stuffed with a bit of hay to feed the animals (camels) on which the Kings arrive – when children wake up the following morning, their gifts appear in place of the hay. In other parts, children send the note in a helium balloon into the sky, in which they explain why they have been good or bad that year and the gifts they would like to receive if deemed worthy. Nowadays, like Santa Claus in the States (or Father Christmas in Europe) – a recent importation as some Mexican children receive presents from Santa Claus too – the Kings tend to leave their gifts under the Christmas tree. Also, for the Three King’s day, it is a tradition to eat a sweet cake (pan dulce) called Rosca de reyes.

Rosca de reyes

The cake is decorated with pineapple (piña) and figs (higo) (for recipe click here). Inside the cake a tiny plastic figure (el muñeco) of baby Jesus is hidden. The tradition of placing a trinket into the cake is very old. The baby Jesus, when hidden in the bread, represents the flight of Jesus from King Herod’s evil plan to kill all the babies that could be the prophesied Messiah. The person who gets the baby Jesus is considered as the godparent of Jesus for that particular year! He or she must take the figurine to the nearest church on 2 Feb, Candlemas Day (Día de la Candelaria). In Mexican culture, this person also has to organise a party and provide tamales and atole de leche or milk chocolate (chocolate de leche) for the guests.

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I found my Rosca being made in one of the houses on the Calle de Porfirio Diáz in Oaxaca – I could not resist the lovely cinnamon and orange smell that came out of the house onto the street, fruit or not! I ‘must’ have it! I was especially amazed by the large Rosca the women of the house had made for the party that was seemingly about to take place. The courtyard smelt delicious. I cannot wait to share mine with my Mexican friends this afternoon – I only hope that I do not get the baby Jesus in my piece as it will cost me too much to stage the party in London!

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Sharing the Rosca

Sharing the Rosca with your family, friends, neighbours or colleagues is really a fun and exciting way of socialising.

Everyone ‘fears’ to cut a piece from the cake containing el muñeco, except very young kids who are happy to have a toy to play! We all had a go after la comida, the main meal in Mexico that normally takes place around 3 pm. I was honoured to have the first go – of course, my hands were shaking! But, phew, I was lucky on my first go but only for a centimeter as the next piece contained ‘the thing’.DSC_0554 DSC_0555DSC_0571

It turned out, as I was told, that a commercially made Rosca (in the box, above) contains more figures that the traditionally homemade one. Also, the larger the Rosca the more figures it contains. The homemade Rosca I bought did not excel in the supply of figures as there were none but it surely did outdo the commercial one on the smell and taste.

Of course, after a few muñecos found in the pieces shared by my friends, it was bound to be my next turn to get one! And sure it was!

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