Día de Reyes, or Three Kings Day, is celebrated across Mexico on 6 January. This date is significant on the church calendar as is signifies the start of the season of Epiphany which runs through to Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. The liturgical season of Epiphany begins on the 12th day after Christmas when Christians commemorate the arrival of the Magi or the ‘Three Wise Men’ who came bearing gifts for the baby Jesus.
In Mexico, during the days preceding Día de Reyes, children write letters to the Three Kings requesting a present – much like children in Australia write to Santa Claus! Sometimes the letters are placed in helium-filled balloons and released into the sky to reach the kings by air. On 6 January, children receive gifts, said to be brought by the three kings. Today, the gifts are left under the Christmas tree, but traditionally children would leave out their shoes with a bit of hay in them to feed the animals of the Three Kings. Then, when the children would wake up in the morning, the hay would have been replaced by gifts
On Three Kings Day, it is traditional for families and friends to gather and drink Chocolate Atole – a type of hot chocolate usually made from masa, water, piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar), cinnamon, vanilla and chocolate. A sweet bread called Rosca de Reyes is served alongside the Atole. In Spanish, ‘Rosca’ means wreath and ‘Reyes’ means kings. The sweet bread is shaped in a circle like a wreath and is often decorated with candied fruit and a figurine of a baby Jesus is baked inside. It is said that the shape of the ‘Rosca’ symbolises the crown of King Herod from whom Mary and Joseph were trying to hide the infant Jesus. The fruits on top are the jewels of Herod’s crown. The figurine inside the ‘Rosca’ is said to represent Jesus in hiding. The person who finds the baby Jesus in their piece of Rosca de Reyes is expected to host a Dia de la Candelaria party on 2 February; 40 days after the birth of Jesus.
We found a great recipe for this delicious sweet bread here.