January the 6th is a special day in Mexico. Known as ‘El Dia de Reyes’ (Three Kings Day), this holiday represents the height of the Christmas season. The date marks the culmination of the twelve days of Christmas and commemorates the three wise men who traveled from afar, bearing gifts for the infant baby Jesus. The children of Mexico in particular look forward to this holiday as traditionally, gifts are exchanged on this date, not on Christmas day.
In Mexico and many other Latin American countries, Santa Claus doesn’t hold the cachet that he does in the United States. Rather, it is the three wise men who are the bearers of gifts, who leave presents in or near the shoes of small children. The holiday is also known by the name of the Epiphany, which dates back to the 4th century.
Three Kings Day remains an important holiday for the people of Mexico. In addition to the gift-giving aspect of the day there is also a culinary treat that is specific to the holiday. Known as ‘Rosca de Reyes’ (King’s Cake), this holiday dessert offers much in the way of symbolism. Shaped in the round to signify a king’s crown, this sweet bread holds a special surprise. Baked inside is a small plastic figurine representing the baby Jesus. Whoever finds this token is obligated to host an upcoming party for the occasion of ‘Dia de la Candelaria’ (Candlemas Day) which occurs each year on February 2nd.