When most of the world has finished celebrating Christmas and it feels like the holiday season has come to an end, much of Latin America is still waiting in anticipation for El Día de Los Reyes, celebrated on January 6th.
This holiday marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas. Día de Los Reyes is translated into Three Kings Day and many other cultures around the world celebrate Epiphany on the same day. Why three kings? These are the kings, or also called wise men and magi (Melchior, representing Europe, Caspar representing Arabia, and Balthazar representing Africa), that traveled to Bethlehem to visit baby Jesus. Each king traveled using a different animal and each came bearing a gift for the newborn child.
While many children receive the majority of their gifts on Christmas day, in Latin America and Spain children anxiously await for January when they receive candy and small gifts. Each country as its own traditions from delicious baked goods, to parades, singing, and leaving out food for the kings and their camels to eat!
On the night before El Día de Los Reyes, children leave their shoes under their bed or outside by the door so that when the Three Kings pass by, they can leave gifts inside of them to the next morning. Along with the shoes, you might find a shoebox that has salt and grass so the camels can get refreshed from their long journey.
This is a day that is spent with family and often a large meal is shared together in the evening. However, a highlight is the sweet bread, Rosca de Reyes. This isn’t just any normal sweet bread; you have to be careful while you’re eating it because a small plastic baby, representing baby Jesus, has been baked inside! If you’re the lucky one who finds the little baby, traditionally, you have to host a dinner in February.
The Rosca de Reyes is an orange-infused dough baked into a large oval shape, filled with sweet cream, jelly, caramel or chocolate and topped with candied fruit. And if that doesn’t sound delicious enough, it is accompanied with a nice warm mug of hot chocolate!
Mexico City hosts a free annual event where they bake a mile-long Rosca de Reyes. In 2017, it was just over 3 miles long! This is a way for everyone in the community to come together and celebrate even if they wouldn’t be able to buy the sweet bread or make one themselves. Hopefully, the person who found the little baby didn’t have to host a meal for everyone!
There are many fun ways to celebrate this holiday at home. You can make some crowns, color some kings, prepare a stable for the camels, and if you’re feeling really adventurous you can even attempt to bake your own Rosca de Reyes!
Here some links to help you celebrate this Latin American holiday in your own home:
Make a Crown – choose your favorite design, print it out, color, and have fun wearing it!
Table Decorations – get some inspiration for an authentic table setting to celebrate Three Kings Day
Rosca de Reyes – set aside some time to make this delicious sweet bread together as a family.
Mexican Hot Chocolate – A warm cozy drink to enjoy on any cold winter day!