In Mexico celebrations continue twelve days twelve days after Christmastime, January 6, with the arrival of the Three Kings and extend until February 2 with the Día de la Candelaria, Candlemass Day. Upon the Catholic faith instilled by the Spanish missionaries, the celebration of this day has taken place in many Spanish speaking countries since the nineteenth century, coinciding with a Catholic holiday, the day of Epiphany. The story tells that these wise men had an epiphany and traveled to Israel seeking the King of Kings who had just been born. Being guided by star that stood over the manger where baby Jesus was born, the magi presented gifts to the child: gold, incense and myrrh. Long before Santa Claus arrived to Mexico, the three wise men, kings from Persia or magi brought gifts to children which consisted of honey, dry fruits, clothes or shoes, and to the naughty ones, charcoal. In our times, sadly this longstanding tradition is slowly disappearing as Santa Claus has taken precedence; however, there are still many places in Mexico that hold on and where children await anxiously for the arrival of Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, the Three Kings or Magi. On the evening of January 5 next to the figurines of the Magi in the nativity scene, children leave a letter addressed to the Magi with a list of the toys they want most and deserve for their good behavior on the previous year. The letter is placed inside one shoe and left besides water, hay and food for the animals that have brought the Kings animals as they have traveled a long way; and for the Kings, cookies and milk. Children joyously open their presents on January 6 and, surprised, find that the water, milk, hay and food have disappeared or are half eaten.
To commemorate this date, in France during the Middle Ages families gathered to enjoy a round bread, sprinkled with sugar and crystallized fruit; hidden inside the bread, a lima bean which symbolized a secure place away from king Herod where Jesus could be born. This practice arrived to Mexico during first years of colonial times and has remained a traditional gathering with family and friends on the evening of January 6: The Merienda, a pre-dinner so children may go to bed early, with the Rosca, tamales, warm cocoa or atole. The Rosca, an oval sweetbread decorated with slices of crystallized or glaze fruit, suggests a real crown with ornaments that symbolize its jewels and inside, nowadays and depending on the size, one or two plastic figurines of baby Jesus. Roscas may come in many sizes, but not in a different shape, and could even include other figurines. All present at the festivity must cut a slice of the Rosca and the people who find the figurine or figures shall invite everyone present over to a new celebration on February 2, Día de la Candelaria or Candlemass day, for tamales.
Monica Sauza, a court certified translator, has been assisting island residents with translations abd immigration issues for over a decade.