Celebrating Día de Reyes with Mexico’s Rosca de Reyes

Photo: Expendio Tradiciòn, Oaxaca, Mèxico via Azucena Suárez

Much like piñatas, which symbolize victory over sin through faith, the tradition of sharing Rosca de Reyes in Mexico to celebrate Día de Reyes or Three Kings Day is, at its core, an evangelizing tool that recounts the story of the three kings arriving in Bethlehem to meet baby Jesus. There is significant religious symbolism in this bread, which is reminiscent of the French Galette des Rois. For instance, its shape represents endless divine love, and the hidden plastic babies within the bread symbolize baby Jesus hiding from Herod. Families typically share Rosca de Reyes early in January, often on the night of the 5th. The bread is usually adorned with fruit and sugar, resembling the jewels on the kings’ crowns, and it is enjoyed with coffee or hot chocolate.

The person who finds the plastic baby in their slice of bread is traditionally responsible for providing tamales and atole to everyone in attendance at the gathering on February 2nd. This custom refers to the practice of presenting infants at the temple 40 days after birth. Tamales are a nod to pre-Hispanic offerings, and the date aligns with a pre-Hispanic holiday where corn was blessed.