This year’s “fiesta de los Reyes Magos” is looking rather different.
The celebration commemorates the arrival of three wise men from the orient — likely Persia — to attend the birth of Christ. This festivity is observed throughout most of Latin America and Spain.
The reyes magos deliver gifts to children much in the same way Santa Claus does, except they do so in the wee hours of the morning on Jan. 6. In many regions, including Yucatán, the gift-giving aspect of the reyes magos has taken a backseat to the more universally known Santa Claus.
The origins of the tradition date back to the Middle Ages. However, the title of “kings” is a more recent variation, as formally they were said to be magi, wise men or wizards. In Mexico the names of these figures are Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar.
For most people in Yucatán the celebration is most closely associated with the eating of the “Rosca de Reyes” — a circular pastry adorned with candied fruit. Inside the pastry lay two or three small plastic figures depicting baby Jesus. Finding the plastic figure in the pastry obliges one to offer up Tamales on the day of Candlemas, (Fiesta de la Candelaria) a Catholic festivity held Feb. 2.
In Yucatán, it is possible to find the Rosca de Reyes in just about any grocery store or bakery. In recent years, elements such as cream cheese and Nutella have been added to the already sweet bread — sparking the ire of purists. There has also been an increase of novelty roscas, such as the controversial Star Wars-themed version, complete with baby Yoda’s instead of the traditional figures of baby Jesus.
This year many people are opting for smaller and individual-sized roscas. Last year, Yucatán set a world record for the world’s largest Rosca de Reyes. The massive pastry was over three kilometers / two miles long and comprised two tons of flour, 13,000 eggs and was stuffed with 19,000 baby Jesus figures.
Previously: Mérida’s giant rosca is ready