In Mexico, on January 6th, it is customary to break the Rosca de Reyes and enjoy it in the company of the family; this is to celebrate that the child God was adored by the Three Kings, the little animals, and all those who came to see him and give him gifts.
From the shape of the bread to the knife used to break the Rosca de Reyes, all the elements have meanings that might surprise you, so dive into the origins of the rosca de reyes tradition, so you know everything about the rosca before buying or preparing it.
This celebration has existed since ancient times. However, it was not as we know it today because it was a pagan holiday. In Egypt and Arabia, the child God was not celebrated, but the God Aion, both in Egypt and Arabia. It was not untiål the Christians used the same day to celebrate the child God’s adoration that the Catholic cult replaced the pagan traditions. Thus, as time went by, the practice of Three Kings Day spread throughout the world.
In the 17th century, the “pastel de haba,” which is the closest thing to the “Rosca de Reyes” we savor today, originated in France. In France, a large cake was baked, and a bean was hidden in it, and whoever found it was awarded the title of “King of the Bean.” Sometime later, this tradition reached Spain, and from Spain, it was passed to Mexico during the Viceroyalty. The wealthiest families used to place a small piece of gold, while the poor continued to place beans.
Regarding the shape of the bread, there are different versions. On the one hand, it is said that the form at the beginning was circular; on the other hand, it is said that it was oval. However, it is agreed that it was a rounded shape from the beginning because it meant the love for God that has no beginning and no end. Also, the body alludes to the crown of the Magi.
The plastic figurine in the donuts represents the child God and is hidden in the Rosca de Reyes because it alludes to the persecution that the child suffered along with his parents by King Herod.
It would seem evident that a knife is needed to cut a cake, pie, or cake and the donut; however, in the case of the Rosca de Reyes, the use of the knife has a special meaning because it alludes to the danger that the little child God was in of being found and killed.
The sugar crusts signify the cardinal points. While the decorative candies have three meanings; the first is the representation of the jewels of the crown of the Magi, the second is that the sweets are the superficial and material elements that we have to go through to find God, and the third is that the candies must be of desert origin because they symbolize the passage of Joseph and Mary through the desert to keep the baby Jesus safe.
When the Spaniards evangelized New Spain’s population, they resorted to different strategies such as Christmas carols, “pastorelas,” and, of course, the Rosca de Reyes. The latter was combined with delicious drinks that we all know: chocolate and atole. This is how the combination between the rosca and chocolate or atole symbolizes the combination between Spanish culture and, in this case, Mexican culture.
So now that you know the origins of the rosca de reyes tradition finding the child in the bread is a blessing, so if you get it, this January 6th, don’t get depressed and enjoy Candlemas Day on February 2nd when you will have to buy tamales to share with your friends and family.