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The evening of January 5 marks the Twelfth Night of Christmas, known as well as Three King’s Day or Epiphany, and is when the figurines of the three wise men are added to the nativity scene. Traditionally in Mexico, as with other Latin American countries, Santa Claus doesn’t hold the cachet that he does in the United States. Rather, it is the three wise men who are the bearers of gifts, who leave presents in or near the shoes of small children. Victoria, who helps keep our DBA offices clean and is from Múzquiz, recently stated to Rochelle and Morgan that her family follows this practice, bypassing the giving of gifts on Christmas altogether.
In researching this practice I found in Wikipedia that some Mexican families (though none I have found here in Denton) also commemorate the date by eating a large oval-shaped Rosca de reyes, a Spanish and Spanish-American king’s cake pastry traditionally eaten to celebrate Epiphany. Recipes vary from country to country. For decoration, figs, quinces, cherries or dried and candied fruits are used.
The tradition of placing a trinket (a figurine of baby Jesus) in the cake is very old. This figure hidden in the bread represents the flight of Joseph, Mary and Jesus from King Herod‘s Massacre of the Innocents. Tradition states that whoever finds the baby Jesus figurine is blessed and must take the figurine to the nearest church on February 2 (Candlemas Day, Día de la Candelaria). In the Mexican culture, this person has the responsibility of hosting a dinner and providing tamales and atole, a Mexican hominy stew, to the guests.