After New Year's Day, Mexican families still have a very special date to commemorate and enjoy. On January 6, most of the Hispanic world celebrates El Dia De Reyes, the Epiphany, remembering the day when the Three Wise Men following the star to Bethlehem, arrived bearing their treasured gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the Baby Jesus.
The Reyes Magos In La Alameda
A couple of days earlier, the children write their letters to the Wise Men, or to their favorite Rey Mago: Melchor, Gaspar, or Baltasar, asking for the presents they would like to receive.
During the evenings before the great celebration on January 6, families go to the Alameda, in Mexico City, a beautiful park that dates back to the Colonial era. There, every year, hundreds of stands are placed with food, toys and best of all, there are sets, where the children can have their picture taken with the Three Kings of the Orient.
Hundreds of multicolored balloons, filled with helium, are sold during the season, so the little ones can attach their letters to them, and have them fly, up to the sky, carrying all their wishes with them.
they forgot their letters at home, there is no need to
worry, there are also salesmen that offer writing paper and
envelopes specially designed for the occasion and addressed
to the Reyes Magos. This lovely tradition of
going to the Alameda park is passed on from
one generation to another. I have a picture of my husband,
when a small child, with the Reyes Magos, set
on a photo-album alongside some photographs of my children
January 6, Dia de Reyes
On the night, of January 5, the figurines of the Three Wise Men are added to the nativity scene. Before going to bed the children place their old shoes under their bed or in the living room, where the Wise Men will leave them their presents. Some also place outside the house, some hay and a bucket with water for the animals, and even some cookies and milk for Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar.
The children spend the day playing and admiring each other’s presents, sharing them with friends, talking about how they were able to hear or see the Reyes Magos when they arrived at their home, how one of them heard the camel’s footsteps, how the other saw a shining crown in the dark night! Meanwhile, adults prepare for the Merienda de Reyes, an early evening dinner that friends and families share to celebrate the Epiphany.
Rosca de Reyes
People go to the markets and stores to get the needed ingredients to prepare the feast.
All over the country, in every city and in every little town, bakeries offer the Rosca de Reyes, an oval sweetbread, decorated with candied fruit. There are Roscas of all sizes, very small ones for two or three people and up to the ones that will delight more that twenty people.
The Merienda de Reyes is truly a multicultural event. The Spaniards brought the tradition of celebrating the Epiphany and sharing the Rosca to the New World. The Rosca is served along with Tamales, made of corn which was the pre-Hispanic food per excel lance, and hot chocolate. Chocolate is also a gift from the native peoples of the New World.
Hidden inside this delicious Rosca, a plastic figurine of the Baby Jesus. The Baby is hidden because it symbolizes the need to find a secure place where Jesus could be born, a place where King Herod would not find Him.
Each person cuts a slice of the Rosca . The knife symbolizes the danger in which the Baby Jesus was in.
One by one the guests carefully inspect their slice, hopping they didn't get the figurine.
Whoever gets the baby figurine shall be the host, and invite everyone present to a new celebration on February 2, Candelaria or Candle mass day, and he also shall get a new Ropón or dress for the Baby Jesus of the Nativity scene.
The Mexican Christmas season is joyously extended up to February 2 ! - when the nativity scene is put away, and another family dinner of delicious tamales and hot chocolate is served with great love and happiness.
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