What is El Día de los Reyes (The Day of the Kings)?It is a religious holiday falling on January 6th, commemorating the day when a group of Kings arrived to worship and bring three gifts to the baby Jesus after following a star in the heavens. You can read the Wikipedia version here.
How is El Día de los Reyes (The Day of the Kings) celebrated?Growing up, the only way I remember celebrating this holiday was in polishing and leaving my shoes, the night before January 6th, next to my bed - ready for the Kings' presents. The next morning, I would wake up to a small toy inside my shoe (think small dolls). Of course, I was always la consentida (the spoiled one), so I was never one to get the dreaded coal that kids get if they misbehaved. This is also when la Rosca de reyes comes into play.
What is the Rosca de reyes?The Rosca de reyes is an oval-shaped pastry traditionally eaten on January 6th to celebrate The Day of the Kings. The Rosca de reyes tastes a lot like Hawaiian bread (or maybe more like Challah bread?) and it is decorated with dried and candied fruits, quince and cherries. Each bread has a little baby Jesus figuring baked into it. Whoever finds the baby Jesus figuring is blessed (score!) and they should take the little figurine to their church on February 2nd - before heading home and feeding everyone tamales and atole. Seriously. You see, on January 6th you have people over to your home, or you head to someone's home, and you share the Rosca de reyes with them. So then that same group reconvenes and you're all fed again on February 2nd by the person that was lucky enough to find the baby Jesus.
If it's a really big group, the Rosca de reyes will be huge and you can have the bakery put in more than one baby Jesus in it so the task of feeding a large group is divided. Of course, you don't just serve tamales and atole. You can also serve menudo, pozole, champurrado, etc.
And in case you're interested, the baby Jesus, when hidden in the bread, represents the flight of Jesus, fleeing from King Herod's evil plan to kill all babies that could be the prophesied messiah.
So there you are. A quick "what the heck is El Día de los Reyes (The Day of the Kings)" post so that when I talk about it later, you are all caught up. I'm celebrating this year with the kids because I am getting them cultured-up. I want them to experience much of what I did growing up and this was one of the holidays that I looked forward too (mainly because of the extra toy that I would get). I also think it's about time that my kid starts in on religion and this is very two birds, one stone.
And to get you in the spirit, check out this video where "Ya Vienen Los Reyes Magos" is sung. It's fun, kid-friendly and has some pictures to go along with the song.