BY FERNANDO RODRIGUEZ
In Mexico, the Christmas holiday tradition of giving does not take place on Christmas Eve which some might consider the American way, nor on Christmas Day morning when many Anglo-Americans celebrate the holiday. Rather, it occurs on January the 6th. That date, in Mexico, represents the true gift-giving time of the year.
The ”Los Reyes Magos” date of January 6 commemorates ”Three Kings Day,” where children of Mexico wake up very early in the morning and run to open the gifts that the Three Kings of the East brought, a reminiscence of the day they brought presents to baby Jesus at the Nativity scene.
Another part of the January 6 gift giving for the kids is when the traditional ”Rosca de Reyes” is distributed. The “Rosca” is a bread formed in a circular shape with a hole in the middle, made with sweet dough, decorated with dried fruits and which hides a special surprise: the little white plastic figure of a child. Or several. The lucky person who gets these figures of baby Jesus ends up having to pay for, or make, the tamales for everyone else on February 2.
The traditional meals for the “Reyes Magos” holiday dinner are enchiladas verdes, tamales, pozole, Rosca de Reyes, (Kings cake), with Mexican hot chocolate. In the New Testament, Matthew 2:13–23, after the visit by the Three Kings/Magi, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him to flee to Egypt with Mary and the infant Jesus because King Herod would seek to kill the child.
Three Wise Men or “Reyes Magos” are known to be Gaspar, Balthasar and Melchior who traveled by horse, camel and elephant through the desert, guided by a bright star of the East bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus.
It has been said that the Three Kings represent Europe, Asia, and Africa. The biblical story also identifies them by name and their lands of origin; Melchior hailed from Persia, Gaspar from India, and Balthazar from Arabia. January 6th is also known as the Feast of the Epiphany.
“And when they came into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”
Each of those precious gifts has a symbolic meaning. Frankincense was used for worship in the Temple; it is symbolic of Christ the High Priest. Gold is symbolic of Christ the King, and Myrrh, a perfume used to anoint dead bodies, is symbolic of the death of Jesus Christ the Prophet, the Messiah.
That is pretty much how and why Mexicans celebrate the spirit of giving because of the gifts The Three Kings brought for the infant Jesus. Los Reyes Magos was celebrated in Spain before the conquest. A Christmas Holiday tradition, Hernan Cortes and his Christian Friars, and Catholic priests brought it to Mexico after the Fall of the Aztec Empire.