After Jesus was born, many people started adoring him but there's a specific passage in the bible that tells us how three wise men (the Three Kings) followed the star of Bethlehem to find baby Jesus, worship him and give him gifts of gold, incense and myrrh.
In Mexico we also celebrate that special moment when the Three Magi (los Tres Reyes Magos) arrived to adore baby Jesus, but I have to say that it's kind of different from family to family. Let me explain this.
When I was a girl, my brothers and I had the fortune that my parents celebrated the birth of Jesus and the visit of the Magi by giving us presents on the 25th of December from "Santa Claus", and the 6th of January from the "Reyes Magos" (the Three Kings) but some families just used to give presents to their children in one of those two dates. I remember Santa Claus always brought us toys and the Three Kings clothes, along with a small toy as well. We used to write a letter to the three kings and put it inside our shoe, so the next morning our presents would be under the Christmas tree with our shoe on top, to identify what gifts belonged to whom. December and beginning of January was a such a magical time for me and many many kids. Not only we were on holidays, but the decoration of the city, the music in the shopping malls, the posadas, the seasonal food, the sweets and of course the presents, made of this time of the year the best one ever!
There was only a "small" issue that spoiled the fun and it was that school used to resume three or four days after the year started, meaning that by the 6th (when the Wise Men arrived), no matter what, we had to go to school! (unless the 6th landed on a Saturday or Sunday) :( I tell you, that was not fun at all. So at the end what happened was that all the children went to school with our new toys. What a waste of time for everybody. It's obvious the teachers could never taught anything or made the children pay attention to them on January 6.
That was the way kids used to spend and celebrate the arrival of the Three Wise Men. But in general, there is another tradition that still goes on and it is to eat the "Rosca de Reyes" (Three Kings Bread) along with hot chocolate.
This kind of bread can only be found during the first half of January and it is delicious. It is shaped in the form of a wreath, garnished with candied fruit and some parts have crystalized sugar. But the most interesting part is about a little figurine hiding inside the bread. Usually each person cuts their own slice of bread and the one who gets the figurine, has to host a party on February 2nd. The tradition says that you have to serve "tamales" (a traditional dish made of "masa" or dough).
The meaning of the Rosca de Reyes has to do with the Biblical story of Mary and Joseph's flight to Egypt to protect baby Jesus from the slaughter of the innocents. The shape of the Rosca symbolizes a crown (King Herod's), the candied fruit are the jewels on the crown, and the figurine represents baby Jesus in hiding. The person who finds baby Jesus is symbolically his godparent and must sponsor the party when he is taken to the temple to be blessed, celebrated as "Día de la Candelaria", on February 2nd.
This is a beautiful tradition that brings people together. We use to cut the rosca at home, with friends, at the office. It really doesn't matter where, the thing is to share a smile and spend a good moment with people you appreciate, eating a tasty bread and drinking hot chocolate or "atole" (a traditional masa-based beverage).
I have to say that I miss eating the "rosca de reyes". Since I left Mexico, 15 years ago, I haven't had the opportunity to enjoy a single piece of this delicious bread. But one thing is certain, I will never forget its taste.