Did you know that the traditional “Rosca de Reyes” or King Cake originates from the Romans? That’s right, this tradition very much celebrated in Mexico on January 6, dates from Roman times where they honored the god Saturn and placed a coin in candy, and whoever found it became king for a day.
Over time the tradition was adopted by Christians and the Spanish, who in the time of the viceroyalty inherited us this custom known to them as the “Roscón de Reyes,” today savored with a delicious hot chocolate or “atole” since it’s usually the coldest time of the year.
What does the “Rosca de Reyes” mean?
The Epiphany or the day in which the 3 Wise Men (Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltazar) whom with offerings of gold, incense, and myrrh were guided by the star of Bethlehem to find the king of kings, Baby Jesus.
This traditional bread has several symbols. From the round shape of the bread representing the crown of the 3 Wise Men, a Baby Jesus hidden in the bread symbolizes when Mary and Joseph hid Jesus from King Herod, fearing he would kill him. And the dried fruits symbolize the jewels that the 3 Wise Men brought as a gift to the king of kings; that as an interesting fact, “acitrón” was used instead of dried fruits a long time ago. However, this fruit was put in danger of extinction, which is why it is considered a crime to use it and now it is replaced by the crystallized fruit.
Epiphany Day culminates the Christmas season, but it is still an excellent excuse to gather with your family and see who gets the “muñequito” (Baby Jesus). Because if you do, you become his godfather and will have to bring him new clothes and “tamales” for everyone on the Day of the “Candelaria” (February 2).
Fun Facts of Epiphany Day
Madrid is known as the world capital of the “Rosca de Reyes”, where each year, more than 2.5 million roscas are consumed. This holiday may even be more important than Christmas itself.
In some places in Mexico, in addition to the Baby Jesus put in the “rosca”, a ring and thimble are added to the bread. Tradition says that whoever gets the ring means they will marry soon, and whoever gets the thimble will be single for at least a year.
Tizimín, Yucatán is the second most important sanctuary in the world dedicated to the three Wise Men where pilgrims from different parts of the state gather every January 6. The most important sanctuary is in Cologne, Germany, where the remains of these characters are said to rest.