A Mexican tradition on January 6, Three Kings Day

You don’t want to eat the baby Jesus, but it’s good luck if he’s in your slice of cake.

It’s a Mexican tradition on January 6, Three Kings Day, to eat a sweetbread called rosca de reyes, or kings’ cake. Hidden inside the buttery cake are tiny plastic dolls representing the baby Jesus. Whoever finds the baby in their slice has to throw a party a month later and invite everybody in the room for tamales.

In Mexico the bread is eaten after children receive presents in the afternoon as a dessert or with hot chocolate. Santa doesn’t bring Christmas presents to families in Mexico, at least not in traditional families. That job is left to the Three Wise Men. Instead of reindeer, they ride in on camels and leave the presents under kids’ beds next to their shoes. Kids also leave hay and a bucket of water outside for the camels.

For the faithful, King’s Day celebrates the arrival in Bethlehem of the three kings who followed the star for 12 days to Bethlehem bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh to honor the baby Jesus.

Few Mexican immigrant families maintain that tradition after they move to the United States, opting instead for Santa Claus and giving presents on Christmas. The one tradition that has remained of Dí­a de los Reyes Magos is eating the round sweetbread which is decorated with dried or candied fruit.

Each rosca de reyes contains a little plastic baby Jesus. The person who finds the baby has to give a party.

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