By Joe Contreras, Latin Life America Media
Just when you though the holidays were over comes El Dia De Los Reyes Magos, (The Three Kings Day).
On January 5th, the eve of their coming, Mexican children and countless of others throughout Latin America will leave a pair of shoes outside their bedrooms so that the Three kings will leave the gifts the kids have requested.
In Mexico and throughout Latin America Santa has been replaced by Los Reyes Magos, The Three Wise men. Look alikes have been in out in most every mall, plaza and street taking photos and collecting letters of desired gifts. Stores stay open late as parents scrambled to help the Wise Men meet the demand.
The custom is that the children write a letter to ask Melchor , Gaspar and Baltazar the toys that they would like to receive. On the eve of the party they leave their shoes with a little straw to feed the animals that they would bring to the Holy Kings . The next morning, the straw disappears, instead the footwear is filled with the amount of toys. Filled with curiosity, the boys get up very early to enjoy the surprise of the gifts.
Families also eat the traditional “Rosca de Reyes” pastry bread.
It is customary to invite a group of friends and each one must take the knife to cut his portion.
Inside the bread there is one or several small dolls (plastic representations of the Child Jesus) and the person who finds it is obliged to offer a party, tamales or atole, on February 2, Day of the Virgin of Candelaria.
It is the time of Epiphany, also known as the Day of Holy Kings (Día de los Santos Reyes) also referred to as the Three Wise Men. It is celebrated on January 6 in remembrance of the biblical story of the three kings’ visit to Jesus.
As the story goes, guided by a shining star, the Three Kings of the Orient , regally attired and mounted on a camel, a horse and an elephant, undertook the journey to adore the Child Jesus . They came from different parts of the world: one was black, another white and the third with Arab features. They brought gifts for the newborn: gold for being a king, myrrh for being a man and incense for being God, which they spread before the Redeemer. The Kings symbolize the first Gentiles converted to Christianity.
The celebration of January 6 goes back to the first years of evangelization in the New World and continues to this day. According to Mexican tradition, it is they who bring gifts to children. Streets in major cities across Mexico are packed with food stalls, gifts, and outdoor parties. Day of the Holy Kings is a religious observance and not a federal public holiday in Mexico. Access to streets in some cities and towns may be difficult for vehicles due to Epiphany related festivities on January 6.