Mexico is a country steeped in traditions and celebrations that center around our cultural focus on family …and food!
Throughout the year, we celebrate numerous holidays here in Mexico. We share a few holidays with other countries around the world, and others are unique to our culture and heritage.
Three Kings Day, or el Día de los Reyes Magos, is a tradition that is celebrated in many countries throughout Europe and Latin America, but the celebration varies a bit in Mexico.
The origin of Three Kings Day began during the European evangelization of Mexico. The story of the arrival of the three Wise Men from the Far East who were guided by the star of Bethlehem to visit the newborn baby Jesus to adore him and to pay tribute.
Today, this is a story that fills the hearts of children around the world with joy and, in the case of Mexico, it brings with it an excellent pretext to share in some delicious delicacies with family and friends.
How is the Three Kings Day celebrated in Mexico?
In Mexico, the Three Kings Day is celebrated on January 6 each year. According to our tradition, it’s during the early hours of this day that the three kings, Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltazar, visit Mexican homes to leave gifts for the children, just as they did when they visited Jesus in Bethlehem.
When is Three Kings Day?
Although Christmas is still the most important celebration of the season, in many Mexican homes Santa Claus does not arrive, but the Three Wise Men do.
This means that for thousands of children, it’s these noble kings who deliver the treasure trove of exciting gifts each year - not Santa.
In order for the Three Wise Men to leave their gifts, the little ones must leave a shoe under the Christmas tree the night before on January 5.
Like any Mexican holiday, food is a necessity! This tradition includes breaking the rosca de Reyes that brings with it a unique curiosity!
The Traditional Rosca de Reyes in Mexico
The rosca de Reyes in Mexico is an oval-shaped bread with dough very similar to that of a brioche. It’s adorned with crystallized fruits and a sugary coating. In Mexico we love sweet bread and, along with the pan de muerto, (for the Day of the Dead), the rosca de Reyes is one of the favored and most anticipated bread delicacies of the year.
In Mexico, we gather with family, friends, and work colleagues to break the rosca de Reyes.
We cut as many slices as there are guests and it's no secret that we begin eating the bread days before January 6! It’s a social pretext to have a good time and eat well.
The rosca is traditionally accompanied by atole or hot chocolate.
Above we mentioned that the rosca de Reyes brings with it a curiosity -- and this is that there are several small figurines of the baby Jesus hidden inside (depending on the size of the slice).
The person who is served the slice of bread with the figuring inside must provide the tamales for the next holiday -- February 2, Candlemas Day.
January 6 and the rosca de Reyes also mark the finale of the Guadalupe-Reyes marathon in Mexico, which is a period of 26 days that begins on December 12 with the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe and ends on Three Kings Day.
During these holidays, Mexico is filled to the brim with celebrations -- from posadas, Christmas and New Year's parties all the way to Three Kings Day. All reasons to eat, drink, and be merry! For this reason, we always say that no one can "diet" in Mexico until after January 6 when the cycle of festivities and feasts of the holiday season officially closes.
Enjoy our other articles on Mexican Traditions:
- Significance of Salt & Lime
- Day of the Dead Traditions Explained
- Mexico’s Day of the Dead - a Joyous Celebration of Life