Some of the regular holidays celebrated in most countries every year are New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and Christmas Day. Most people anticipate Christmas Day as we are all excited to receive gifts from our loved ones. But in Mexico, it is not Christmas day they are excited about but the last day of Christmas which they call “Three Kings Day.”
The Three Kings Day is a holiday based on the biblical story of the Magi or much known as “Three Kings” who saw the bright star which led them to Bethlehem the night Jesus was born. It is also when Christians commemorates the coming of the three kings who arrived bearing gifts to Jesus Christ.
Three Kings Day is the commemoration of the end of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” which is from Christmas evening until January 6. Figures of wise men will be placed in “Nacimiento” or the Nativity Scene on the night of January 5 to symbolize the coming of the kings. The holiday is also known as Epiphany or “El Dia de Reyes” in Mexico.
In Mexico and many other Latin American countries, Santa Claus does not hold the superior status like what he has in the United States. Instead, it is the three kings or the “Los Reyes Magos” namely Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltazar who are popular to give gifts to children.
On this day, Mexican children will often receive gifts from the three kings or also known as the “wise men.” Days before the Three Kings Day, Mexican children will write letters to the three kings to request for toys or any gifts that they want to receive. Usually, the letters are placed in helium-filled balloons that are released because they believe that their requests will reach the three kings through air.
Children believe that if they will leave their shoes outside the doors, the wise men will leave their gifts inside the house. Many families also leave a box of hay or grass and water for the wise men’s camels to eat and drink. Camels has the impression that they tend to be sloppy and they often leave a trail of hay behind which children would follow to find their gifts.
As the holiday commemorates the wise men, you may see men dressed up as three kings in Mexican town squares, parks and shopping centers posing with children for photos. It is also customary for families and friends to gather and have a scrumptious dinner together. Families traditionally drink hot chocolate or “atole,” a warm and thick grain-based drink during this holiday. Children sometimes make crowns and wear them at the dinner table to honor the three kings.
Another tradition during El Dia de Reyes is the baking of a sweetbread that is shaped like a wreath or called as “Rosca de Reyes” which literally mean “The King’s bread.” it is usually served as dessert. The bread is baked in which a small figure of baby Jesus is placed inside of it and some candied fruit on top. Whoever finds the figurine will be the one to prepare “tamales” for everyone on the next religious and family celebration named “Dia de la Candelaria” or “Candlemas” on the next month. It is celebrated on the second day of February.
In Mexico, you will never be left out with parties. From the El dia de Reyes on January to Dia de la Candelaria on February. Mexicans really know how to celebrate and live a life full of fun.