Tuesday, January 09, 2007

About Mexican Culture #1 - Dia de los Reyes

If you didn't wake up on January 6th rushing to your shoes to look for goodies, then you probably are not familiar with Dia de los Reyes. Dia de Reyes (Day of Kings) is something celebrated in Mexico in honor of the wise men visiting Jesus when he was born. There are a couple of elements involved in celebrating it.

First, the children leave their shoes under the Christmas tree on January 5th, and when they wake up in the morning, they find presents--money, candy, toys, etc.--in your shoes! Further down in Mexico, such as in Mexico City, the Kings take the place of Santa Claus. Santa just brings clothes. It's the Kings who bring you toys! When we first got married, Carolina informed me on January the 5th that she was leaving her shoes under the tree for los Reyes, and she expected something to be in them in the morning. I wished her good luck.
The next part of this tradition is that everyone buys and eats a cake called "Rosca de Reyes" (Bundt Cake of Kings). It's kind of a sweet pastry. It has less sugary stuff than sweet roles, but it has bits of fruit and sugar baked into it, and decorating the top of it. Pictured here is myself cutting the cake, Carolina's dad, and our friend Rocio. The rosca goes very well with hot chocolate. There is a great deal of importance to this cake, however, as fruit is not the only thing that is baked into it.

They also bake a little plastic baby Jesus into it that they call "Niño Jesus" (pronounced ninyo haysoos). Everyone eats a piece of the cake, hoping that they don't get the niño Jesus. If you get this plastic baby Jesus (in the picture below), it means that you are in charge of throwing a party and providing tamales for everyone on February 2nd. After eating one of these, you could quite literally say "I found Jesus in a piece of cake". (note: humor attempted here)

As much as I love my American heritage, I've come to a point in my life where I must admit that Mexicans are much better at enjoying holidays than we are.
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  1. Jan 6th is also the 12th day of Christmas, yeah, like the song. ALso called Epiphany and a bunch of other things. Just sayin.

  2. Those are huge in Baton Rouge. They have what they call King cakes. http://www.mardigrasunmasked.com/mardigras/king_cake.htm
    If you get the baby you're supposed to buy the cake, but because of legal reasons they don't put the baby in the cake, just on top and you have to put it in yourself.