Culture

The Rosca De Reyes Is A Mexican Classic But Do You Know The Story Behind It?

Christmas and end of year celebrations vary across the world. But Latinos, Mexicans in particular, get a little extra time for the holiday season, which extends into the first week of January due to a celebration that involves some of the best things in life: pastry, chocolate and family. 

So, if you come from a Mexican family you know the holiday season does not end on New Year’s Eve, but on January 6.

Credit: Pinterest

Yes, known as Dia de Reyes or Wise Men’s Day, this holiday celebrates the presents that according to scripture Baby Jesus received gifts from three travelers that were guided by the Star of Bethlehem. This translates into yet more presents for Latino kids and a family celebration that involves eating a very important pastry. 

Introducing La Rosca de Reyes!

Rosca de reyes tradition is basically a brioche-style huge oval shaped string of deliciousness. It is filled with candied fruits, which also decorate the top. Most importantly, though, it contains at least one but often multiple figurines of a baby representing a newly born Jesus. The family goes around the table taking turns and cutting into the rosca. Expectations mount as each guest reveals whether or not they got the muñeco. Some people love to find it while others really hate it.

It is usually passed down with a very Mexican hot chocolatito.

Credit: The Spruce Eats

The Rosca de Reyes tradition usually involves making a delicious Mexican hot chocolate, a traditional beverage that highlights the indigenous origin of chocolate, an ingredient that has become perhaps the most popular flavor in the world. Like really, what would the world be without chocolate? So get your Abuelita tablets ready and get ready to froth some milk. 

With el muñeco comes a great responsibility… 

Credit: Tierra Fertil

Whoever gets el muñeco (how the Jesus figurine is commonly called) has to buy tamales for the whole family come the day of the Virgin of Candelaria, which is celebrated on February 2nd. Some people even keep the baby figurine in their mouth to escape from the responsibility and expense of getting some hot tamales for a crowd. During February 2 Mexico becomes tamale central and you are able to find them even in supermarkets. In the US we are sure that you can buy them in specialty shops or, if you are lucky enough, perhaps there is a tamale cart in your neighborhood. 

The Rosca de Reyes has its origin in colonial times, as a Medieval Catholic tradition was passed on to what was then New Spain.

There are numerous theories about the symbolism of the Rosca de Reyes. Some think that the oval shape resembles a king’s crown, while others argue that it represents the infinite love towards God. The tradition finds its origin in medieval France, where a pagan tradition dictated that during the festivals a king was to be chosen through a process in which a broad bean was hidden in a sweet pastry and whoever found it would be named the pretend king. The tradition is still being followed in France, where an almond based pastry called Gallete du Rois or King’s Cake is baked and decorated with a crown. 

But why do people hide a figurine?

Baby Jesus figurines were not traditionally made of plastic, of course, but of ceramic. The pagan tradition of choosing a festival king through a hidden broad bean was transformed into hiding a baby Jesus, representing how Mary and Joseph hid their son when King Herod wanted to find the baby that according to the prophecies would become king. This is an example of religious syncretism that resulted in a fun tradition enjoyed by millions every year. Are you interested in starting having a Dia de Reyes in case you don’t already?

Some people are really obsessed with having the biggest Rosca de Reyes ever and the world record is 2 kilometers of crusty and sweet heaven.

The world record for the longest Rosca de Reyes was achieved on January 6 2019, when the Vizcaya University was home to a two kilometer loaf. As Mexico Daily News reports, the ingredient list was something that needed to be seen to be believed: “More than two tonnes of flour, 10,000 eggs, 350 kilograms of margarine, 16 liters of vanilla, 18 liters of orange blossom water, 25 kilos of baker’s yeast, 150 kilos of lard and 700 kilos of sugar went into the very long loaf”. And it was so long that 7,000 baby figurines were hidden under layers of fluffy brioche. 

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