The Real Last Day of Christmas
Few people know that in Latin America, the opening of gifts on Nochebuena, the 24th of December is still a relatively new practice. Before, kids had to wait until the 6th of January to enjoy all their surprise gifts. This is because in accordance to Hispanic Christmas traditions, this day commemorates the journey of the three magic kings who came to baby Jesus bearing gifts for the savior.
In Mexico, the three Reyes Magos are bigger than Santa Claus. Children lay their old shoes at the doorway of their home and write a letter to the Reyes magos asking for specific gifts. When they awake on the 6th of January, they find their shoes filled with gifts!
However, the celebration doesn’t end there. Adults exchange gifts too and then begins the feast! At the heart of a feast is an oval shaped cake, decorated with candied and dried fruits. This cake is called a rosca and is supposed to symbolize a crown. Hidden away in the cake are small white figurines that symbolize the hiding of Jesus from the King’s men. Tradition in Mexico says that the person who finds the doll, has to make the tamales for the Candelaria celebrations in February.
Elaborate parades are held in Mexico City and even in rural towns in church courtyards. Though they were never named in the scripture, the early teachings of the Catholic church name the Reyes Magos, Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar. Parade floats bearing their image and images of angels can be seen leading the way to the town chapel. After mass, children often take photos with the three wise men and personally deliver their wish lists for next year!
Though it marks the end of the Holiday season on the Hispanic calendar, it leaves us with plenty of blessings to show gratitude for at the start of every year. Feliz Dia de los Reyes from our family to yours!