January 6: Another day that celebrates the Birth of Christ
By Joe Olvera ©, 2011
Mexicans are lucky, especially the children. They get to celebrate Christmas twice. Not only do they wait with anticipation to see the fat man – Santa Claus – climb down that ole chimney, but, on January 6 they get to celebrate again. Only this time, it’s not ole Saint Nick that delivers presents. This time it’s Los Tres Reyes (The Three Kings). Of course, not every Mexican child experiences this phenomenon, but, those who do are the lucky ones.
January 6 culminates the Twelve Days of Christmas, and it honors the three wise men who traveled, ostensibly, from the Orient to deliver gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold to the newly born Christ child in Bethlehem. Either they were skilled astronomers, or just plain lucky. But, of a sudden, a star appeared in the heavens that signaled to them that a new king had been born. They followed the traveling star until it stopped, pointing out the manger where the Christ child lay with his mother Mary and his father, Joseph – well, adoptive father, should we say.
In El Paso, and in other Hispanic communities, the three kings or three wise men have almost replaced December 25th as Christmas Day. Some Mexican kids are lucky, however, because their parents don’t want them to be without on Christmas Day, and, at the same time, they don’t want their kids to forget or to forego January 6 – El Dia de los Tres Reyes. Thus, these children get to open gifts wrapped in colorful paper twice in one year. In addition to the Christmas ham on the 25th, these youngsters also get to eat a favorite treat known as the Rosca de Reyes. Shaped in the round to represent a king’s crown, the Rosca de Reyes also contains a secret surprise – a plastic effigy of the baby Jesus. Whoever finds the baby Jesus must commit to having a party for all those present on Feb. 2, known as the Day of the Candlemas.
But, you see, there is a rhyme and a reason for hiding the baby Jesus in the pan de
Rosca. It is symbolic of the time when the Three Kings arrived at the land of King Herod – Jerusalem. The omens had warned Herod that a baby was born who would become the
King of the Jews. Jealous of the Christ child’s birth, Herod asked the Three Kings to let him know when and where they found Jesus. Herod told them that he wanted to honor the Christ child. This was a ruse, however. Herod wanted to murder Jesus to eliminate this new king. When the three Kings did not relay this information to Herod, he took a terrible revenge. He ordered his thugs to murder every newborn child, hoping that by so doing, the baby Jesus would be among them. As we all know, however, it didn’t happen that way and Jesus went on to found a powerful religion that lives to this day. Thus, for Mexicans and other Hispanics around the world, January 6 is as important a day as is Christmas. Therefore, allow us to wish everyone a Happy January 6th. El Dia de los Tres Reyes.