the three kings held up by the police – courtesy of facebook/soyplayense.com
2013 was the year of epiphanies. I had many of them during that long 12 month period. According to Merriam-Webster.com, an epiphany is “an experience of striking and startling realization”. Therefore, everything from my decision to leave Mexico, to writing a blog, to changing the course of my life journey in 2013 can be labeled an epiphany.! When 2013 started, I had no intention of returning to Chicago and leaving Mexico. Writing a blog was most definitely not on my radar at the beginning of that New Year’s Eve celebration at Sala Rosa.! And both of those epiphanies translated automatically into other life altering events.!
And while last year was full of epiphanies for me, there is another kind of epiphany that is celebrated every year like clockwork. The Epiphany is the celebration of the arrival of the three kings to Bethlehem. However, I have noticed that only select groups of people celebrate this epiphany. I know that as a child of Croatian immigrants we celebrated the Epiphany. But mostly in my household it marked the end of the Christmas season and our tree needed to be dismantled by that day. In New Orleans, the holiday is celebrated with a King Cake.!
Rosca de Reyes – courtesy of telediario.mx
But the Ephiphany is celebrated in Mexico with the same gusto as Christmas. Every January 6th, Mexicans celebrate Dia de los Reyes or Three Kings Day. Besides celebrating the arrival of the Magi to bestow gifts on the baby Jesus, Dia de los Reyes also marks the 12th day of Christmas. In Mexico, children leave out their shoes overnite with a wish list for the Magi or Three Kings. In the morning, their shoes are filled with candies and other goodies.
But the best part of the Epiphany is the Rosca de Reyes or King’s Bread/Cake. The cake is usually round or oval in shape and comes in many different sizes depending on how many guests you will be entertaining. It is generally decorated with dried and candied fruits. Inside the cake is hidden a small figuirine of the baby Jesus. The hidden baby Jesus represents the Holy Family’s flight from Bethlehem and King Herod. Whoever finds the hidden baby Jesus is required to provide tamales for the group on February 2nd, Dia de Candelaria, or Candlemas Day.
Rosca de Reyes with figuirines – courtesy of animalgourmet.com
When I worked in Mexico, I noticed that all of the grocery stores had Rosca de Reyes everywhere in excessive amounts. I was initially overwhelmed by the sheer volume of cakes. Growing up in Chicago, I had never seen anything like it before. It is always fascinating to me which holidays tend to resonate with each country even if the faith is the same. Why would the French in New Orleans and Mexicans worldwide feel the need to celebrate the Epiphany with such pageantry.? While, the Irish in Chicago were less likely to consider it a huge holiday. Something to ponder…
Even the hotel I worked at provided a King Cake for us at work. One of my coworkers found the baby Jesus in her slice. Sure enough on February 2nd, she brought tamales for everyone at the morning meeting. They were delicious.! This year living in Chicago, I did not celebrate the Epiphany nor did I really know anyone who did. Well except my friend J. because she was visiting family in NOLA (New Orleans). I love cake…and food. So I firmly believe any holiday that calls for cake and then has a set date for tamales should be celebrated.! Wait…that’s my first epiphany for the new year – I’m bringing the Rosca de Reyes next year 🙂