In Mexico and many other Latin American countries, Santa Claus
isn’t as popular as he is in the United States. Rather, it is the Three Wise
Men who are the bearers of gifts and leave presents in or near the shoes of
small children. The holiday is also known by the name Epiphany and dates back
to the 4th century. A grand feast would be held on this day to honor the
occasion of Jesus’ baptism and to pay homage to the Three Wise Men.
Many believe mysterious events preceded Jesus’ birth with
perhaps the most notable being the appearance of the star in Bethlehem. This
new star appeared in the evening sky just prior to the arrival of Jesus. Three
wise men, or Magi as they were known, whose names were Caspar, Melchior, and
Balthasar, traveled a far distance to pay homage to Christ. They brought with
them fine gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Three Kings Day, or El Dia de Reyes, remains
an important holiday for Catholics. In addition to gift-giving, there is also a
culinary treat that is specific to the holiday. Known as Rosca de Reyes (King’s
Cake), this holiday dessert is a symbolic pastry. Shaped in a circle to signify
a king’s crown, this sweet bread holds a special surprise. Inside is a small
plastic figurine representing the baby Jesus. Whoever finds this token is
obligated to host an upcoming party and cook tamales for the occasion Dia de la Condelaria
(Candlemas Day) which occurs each year on February 2.