Last Friday, January 6th, was Dia de Los Tres Reyes (Day of the 3 Kings) here in Mexico. Before a lot of the impacts of globalization, Santa Claus was not well known here, and it was the 3 Kings that brought all the gifts for the kids on January 6th. I learned that children used to write their "wish-list" to the 3 Kings and put out snacks for them and their camels in a similar fashion to when you leave milk and cookies out for Santa (and maybe even a carrot for the reindeers!) Even though Christmas has started to be associated with Santa or Papa Noel here, the traditions of Dia de Los Tres Reyes have stayed strong and not dwindled away.
Something that is very popular for Dia de Los Tres Reyes (besides giving toys to the children) is to eat a Rosca and drink hot chocolate. A Rosca is very similar to the King's Cake that is eaten for Mardi Gras. It is a ring of bread, some are small and some are quite large, and has some sugar on top and the Rosca has little fruit flavored gummy candy as well. But, the most important thing to note about a Rosca is that is contains little plastic babies inside the bread. Now, if you know the tradition for Mardi Gras, if you get the baby in your piece of bread, then you have good luck and you are the "king" for the day. However, the tradition is a little bit different for a Rosca. If you get the baby in your piece of Rosca, then you have to make the tamales for February 2nd, another holiday here in Mexico (but no, it is not groundhog's day). I was warned before my first piece of Rosca that if I got the baby I would have to make the tamales, so I already went into this holiday a little bit nervous about having a small plastic baby inside of my bread.
Here is a picture of what a traditional Rosca looks like
So my first taste of a Rosca was on Thursday night. My family had been out picking up some things, so I was upstairs in my room when I heard them call to me and tell me to come downstairs. My host mom told me that they had bought a Rosca and that my grandma was making hot chocolate, so I should come down and join them. I questioned her because I thought that the 3 Kings Day wasn't until the next day, but she said they had bought the Rosca that day, so we were just going to eat it the night before :) I wasn't going to question it, even though I was still nervous about getting that baby and having to make tamales. I went downstairs and my host dad and host sister had already cut themselves two pieces and neither of them had gotten the baby. They told me cut myself a piece, and I reluctantly picked up the knife and cut a relatively small piece, and I look to the left-hand side of my piece and BOOM I got a baby. Everyone laughed that on my first piece of Rosca I got a baby, but it was all in good fun. I did now know that I was going to have to make some tamales for my family. We sat around and chatted for the rest of the night and drank the hot chocolate and people kept serving themselves more of the Rosca. My grandma ended up getting another one of the plastic babies (there are around 5 or 6 in each Rosca) so I felt better that I could make some tamales with her when February 2nd came around. My host parents offered me another piece of the Rosca, but I wasn't all that hungry so I politely declined, but then they asked again, and I still said "no gracias," until finally my grandma told me just to have another piece because who knows when I will have another Rosca again in my life, ha. So, I decided to take another small piece, this time even smaller than the first time, and, as luck would have it, I found another baby! Once again, the laughs came, and even I was joining in because it seemed so ridiculous that I had two small pieces of Rosca and ended up with two babies in the one evening. However, this was just the beginning of my celebration of the Day of the 3 Kings.
Friday morning I went to work at 10 de Abril and cooked the lunchtime meal, and we had a Rosca for our dessert. Everyone was really excited to eat the Rosca. For many people at 10 de Abril, this was their first Rosca of the day, and probably their only because Roscas can be a little pricey and not everyone has the money to purchase one. My supervisor was cutting all the pieces of the Rosca, and I was handing them out and watching to see who was getting the babies this time. The cool thing about this Rosca was that instead of having little plastic babies in it, it had all the characters from a nativity scene (even a donkey!!). So, when everyone got their piece of the Rosca, my supervisor told me to make sure that I got a piece as well. She cut really big pieces, and I wasn't that hungry, so I told her I was just going to cut a smaller piece from what was left of the Rosca. Well, sure enough, I cut myself a piece and see something sticking out of my bread. THIRD BABY. This time, I didn't get the baby, but I got Mary. So my record is now at 3 pieces of Rosca, 3 babies.
Then, I went to Las Palomas in the afternoon. I enjoyed my couple of hours talking to the people there, listening to more stories- some the same as always and some new ones, and right before I was about to leave, Andrea (my coworker) tells me to wait because she is about to cut the Rosca. I told her I already had three pieces and got three babies, and I did not need anymore, but she insisted that I at least take a piece to go. So, she cuts the Rosca, and hands me a piece. I look at it, and I thought I was in the clear, but, sure enough, there was ANOTHER baby. I almost wish I was making this up that I was now at a record of 4 pieces of Rosca in 3 different places and the proud owner of 4 babies, but, such was my luck for the day.
After I got home from work, I was sitting and talking with my grandma when she told me with a very excited smile that the Three Kings came for me and left me a gift under her Christmas tree the night before. So, I went inside the house, and saw under the tree a small bag with my name on it, and took it outside to where my grandma was sitting. I opened it up and I had gotten a pair of Hello Kitty socks! :) My grandma was smiling so much and so happy to see me open the gift, and she kept claiming it was from the 3 Kings, so I had to keep saying thanks to them for not forgetting me when all the other kids were getting gifts from them too. So, even though I had gotten 4 babies and was going to have to really brush up on my cooking tamales skills, I ended the day wonderfully with some Hello Kitty socks from Los Tres Reyes.
me with my socks
Although Friday was now over and I thought my Rosca eating days were over, I had quite the surprise at church on Sunday. I went to the church service, and after it was over, I was going to leave, but the pastor stopped me and told me to wait because they had a Rosca to share with everyone. First thought that jumped in my head- there is NO way that I can get ANOTHER baby, that just would be impossible and crazy. So, I decided to stick around and enjoy the Rosca. When they brought out the Rosca, they made me cut the first piece. I picked up the knife and cut the first side, and as I was cutting the second side of my piece I could hear whispers of everyone saying "she is cutting too small of a piece for herself" or "she should take more," but once again, I wasn't looking to eat a whole lot of bread. Then, I pulled my piece out of the ring, and BOOM, another one of those plastic babies was sticking out. Everyone said "YAY, She will make us tamales now!" and I just smiled and said yeah, I will have to make a lot of tamales now, ha.
So, my Dia de Los Tres Reyes had me ending with a record of 5 pieces of Rosca (eaten in 4 different places) and 5 babies (4 plastic ones and 1 that resembled Mary). Everyone also mentioned that I was apparently really lucky to have gotten that many babies in my Rosca, but even if it means good luck, it also means cooking tamales. Hopefully I have some help cooking all these tamales (or for the better, they forget that I got all these babies) but either way, this was quite a memorable new holiday for me. So, that's how I celebrated the 6th of January, and I may just be the luckiest person alive with all my babies from my Roscas.