Some people feel that once Christmas and New Year’s are over, the holidays are finished. But Three Kings Day, or the Day of Epiphany, extends the holidays to January 6. Another day to gather with friends or family and have some fun and good food? I say let’s do it! This day has historically religious roots and is celebrated differently throughout many countries. The religious aspect of this day celebrates the Biblical story of when baby Jesus was visited by Three Wise Men who brought him gifts.
In the United States, this holiday has become more celebrated as people, primarily from Latin America, have brought their traditions along with them. My mom, who is from Mexico, would tell us kids about how she celebrated El Dia de los Reyes. Children would leave their shoes outside their bedrooms in hopes of getting gifts. On the actual day, the family would go to church, open gifts, and have a special meal. While I was growing up, my parents focused on Santa Claus, so we received gifts the “American” way on Christmas Day. Perhaps this was because we had very few Hispanics who lived around us. We still went to church and had a few treats on Three Kings Day, though, and we never took decorations down until after January 6. I never knew anyone growing up who actually celebrated Three Kings Day in the way that my mom described.
Now that I am a mom, I look to give my children experiences that will open their eyes to their heritage and Mexican traditions. I feel this is important to add to my kids’ repertoire of cultural information. I also want my kids to know the religious aspect of the holiday. One year, we celebrated downtown at San Fernando Cathedral, where the Puerto Rican Association has been putting on a Dia de los Reyes celebration for years. There is traditional music from Puerto Rico, the Biblical story of the nativity is re-enacted, and there is a special meal provided. I loved it, and my kids listened to the story, heard lots of Spanish, and enjoyed traditional Christmas music in Spanish. Most years, we head to our own local church to hear the story of the Three Wise Men.
Around Texas and definitely in San Antonio, you can now see and purchase Rosca de Reyes, Three Kings Cake. This cake, often called a rosca, is traditionally made in the form of a ring and covered with brightly colored dry fruit and colored sugar. A little plastic baby Jesus is baked inside the cake. Gather people together, and everyone gets a slice. Whoever discovers the baby Jesus in their slice of cake, is supposed to host a gathering later on. Whether or not the “winner” follows through, it is good fun to see who makes the discovery of the Baby Jesus in their slice. What is the purpose of hiding a plastic baby in a round cake? Well, the round shape of the cake is meant to represent a crown, and the “hidden” child refers back to the Biblical story, in which the Three Wise Men had to follow the star to find the Christmas child. My kids love this tradition and try to guess the slice of cake that has the baby in it.
Even if the religious aspect of Three Kings Day is not something you care to participate in, San Antonio is a city that embraces Rosca de Reyes cake. Even HEB sells them these days. I assure you this was not the case when I first moved to San Antonio!
As our city grows, it’s no surprise that Three Kings Day celebrations are becoming more widespread, as they allow participants to extend the holidays while paying homage to the Hispanic influence that makes our city special. If you receive an invite to celebrate Dia de los Reyes, I hope that you will enjoy the tradition that it comes from and the fun that it represents.