Rosca de Reyes and a Visit from the Wise Men

Dia de reyes Three Kings Day shoes tradition

Sunday night found three little pairs of shoes lined up by the front door, and three little heads on pillows that were too excited to sleep!

We’ve chosen not to give any presents to each other on Christmas, including stockings, to keep our focus on giving to Jesus on His birthday.  But, we did feel a little left out of all the fun our other parent friends had doing the Santa thing.  That feeling, plus a desire to incorporate many traditions from Latin America into our family, led us to celebrate Día de Reyes, literally Day of the Kings, or Three Kings’ Day, which is on January 6th, Epiphany, and the end of the Christmas celebration if you celebrate all twelve days.

The tradition with the shoes is that the wise men are traveling on camel to see Jesus, and on their way, they leave gifts in your shoes if you put them out.  Sometimes people leave straw or hay for the camels, too, just as you would leave cookies for Santa.  Now, in many Latin American countries and families, the tradition rivals Santa, and children receive many gifts from the wise men.  We just stuck with the shoes.

Our children do know that it is just pretend, but they were still very excited!  Our two oldest, ages 7 and almost 5, remembered exactly what the wise men brought them last year.  They’ve been looking forward to this day!  We stuck a couple of sticks of Laffy Taffy, two packs of Gushers, a light-up bouncy ball, a keychain flashlight and compass, a little car, a couple of pens, and a juice box in their shoes.  They were THRILLED.  If you don’t begin by giving them lavish gifts, they will continue to be excited by the small ones. 🙂  Especially if they don’t usually have candy or fruit snacks or juice boxes.  We deprive our children of so much. 🙂

Here’s the other, new tradition we added to our celebration this year: the Rosca de reyes!

Dia de reyes Three Kings' Day Rosca de reyes tradition

Not having power yesterday morning when we woke up, due to an overloaded transformer, we weren’t sure we’d be able to use the oven to make this.  So, we didn’t follow the traditional recipe, which involves rising and all of that.  We improvised!  I had crescent rolls and dried cranberries on hand, plus leftover maraschino cherries from making little tiny cheesecakes (which are a New Years’ tradition around here!).

I laid out two rectangles of crescent rolls end-to-end, and pressed all of the seams together.  I used two cans of crescent rolls, so I then had four long rectangles.  We stuck some dried cranberries down the middle, and then rolled up our four long crescent roll logs.  I made them into a crown shape, following the rosca tradition, and we added halved maraschino cherries on top, which represent the jewels in the kings’ crowns…even though we know they weren’t really kings, of course.

Now, the most fun part of this tradition: sticking baby/toddler Jesus in the loaf (since he probably wasn’t an infant when they arrived)!  You can use a plastic figurine, or even part of your nativity, or you can use a bean to represent him.  We drew a little face on a big lima bean, and stuck it in.  The tradition in Mexico and Central America is that the person who finds baby Jesus gets to buy the tamales for Candlemas!

Not being Catholic, I had no idea what Candlemas was, but it is the celebration of Jesus being dedicated at the Temple in Jerusalem.  It happens to fall at the beginning of February.  Miss E found the Jesus bean, and was excited to make tamales; since that will be the weekend of her birthday party, I think it will work out well!

I don’t ever want to let traditions become overly important in our home, but traditions like this really are fun and add a little extra zest to life.  What traditions bring joy to you and your family?

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