Día de Los Reyes,also known as Epiphany and Three Kings’ Day elsewhere in the world,is celebrated Jan. 6th in Mexico and represents the day gifts were given to the baby Jesus Christ. Although it is not an official federal holiday,Three Kings Day is an important national holiday in Mexico and represents the end of the Christmas season.
It is also the traditional day when people throughout the country exchange gifts and marks the culmination of the long-fabled 12 days of Christmas. Not surprisingly,children throughout Mexico in particular look forward to this special day,which has origins that can be traced all the way back to the 16th century.
“Christmas might be over,but it doesn’t mean the gift giving (and receiving) is over,” writes Parade Magazine. “[In Mexico] children receive the majority of their gifts from the Three Kings rather than from Santa Claus at Christmas.”
In the days leading up to the night of Jan. 5th,children write a wish list to the Wise Men asking for presents. This is either placed atop a pair of old shoes,which are filled with toys and gifts by morning,or tied to a helium balloon that is let go to carry their wishes into the heavens. Also,many people in Mexico will traditionally serve Rosca de Reyes,or King’s Cake on Día de Los Reyes to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Baked into an oval shape to symbolize a crown and a small doll inside to represent the Christ child,this traditional symbolizes the hiding of the infant Jesus from King Herod’s troops.
Traditionally,roscas are adorned with a variety of dried and/or candied fruits to symbolize jewels upon the crown. In some areas the person who receives the baby Jesus doll is expected to host a celebration Feb. 2 for Día de la Candelaria,also known as Candlemas,which is when all holiday decorations and nativity scenes are traditionally packed up until the following Christmas season. In other areas,the lucky recipient is considered to be Jesus’ symbolic godparent for the coming year.
As with any important cultural or federal holiday in Mexico,be sure to check ahead in case there are street closings or other potential interruptions that could affect plans to travel on Three Kings’ Day. Also,in parks and public places throughout Mexico’s cities and towns expect to see food stands,toys for sale and photo ops for children and revelers of all ages to pose with the Three Kings of the Orient. In addition,many families wait until Jan. 5 to add figures of the Three Wise Men to their nativity scenes,which only adds to the excitement as children across Mexico eagerly await the following morning.
Finally,many families also gather to enjoy a special evening meal for Día de Los Reyes. Traditionally,families serve delicious corn tamales and rich Mexican hot chocolate,or perhaps a hearty serving of pozole,which is a traditional pre-Columbian soup of pork and hominy. Other popular choices include hot apple and tamarind fruit punch,as well as champurrado,a type of chocolate drink that is spiked with corn flour that is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.
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