By January, Christmas is long gone in the U.S., but in Mexico, Christmas isn’t over until January 6th on Día de los Reyes, or Three Kings Day. While most parts of Baja celebrate gift giving on Christmas day, mainland Mexico has remained more traditional and Dia de Reyes is the day of Christmas gift giving. Children put out their shoes the night before with a wish list for the three kings, and in the morning the shoes are filled with gifts and candies from the kings.
In the Catholic calendar, Día de Reyes marks the Epiphany when the three kings arrived in Bethlehem to bestow their gifts upon the Baby Jesus. Día de Reyes also marks the 12th day of Christmas, rooting back to pagan celebrations.
Traditionally, a Rosca de Reyes (bread of kings) is eaten on Día de Reyes. It’s a cake that is usually round in shape and decorated with dried and candied fruits. A figurine of Baby Jesus is baked inside the rosca. Whoever ends up with the Baby Jesus in their slice of cake has to host a tamal party for friends and family on February 2, Día de Candelaria, Candlemas Day. While the recipient of the figurine of Jesus is considered blessed, it’s considered bad luck to receive the figurine and fail to provide tamales on February 2nd.