Did you know that the local Mexican tradition of gift giving is not on Christmas? Local families have adopted some western Christmas traditions, like Santa Claus, but the real gift giving day is January 6, not December 24th or 25th.
El Dia de los Tres Reyes is a fun fiesta where kids get their presents and the family breaks bread. Kings Bread or Rosca de Rey, is a traditional sweet yummy holiday egg bread that is covered in candied fruit. If you are in Playa del Carmen on Kings Day you can sample Rosca de Rey in a local street festival that runs from 38th street to 34th street. For a mere donation of either 10 pesos or a small toy, you can savor this true Mexican flavor that we wait all year to have.
A brief description of this holiday, is this. Kings Day is the conclusion of the twelve days of Christmas and celebrates the journey of the three wise men who followed the Star of Bethlehem to find the Baby Jesus. As we all know the wise men came with gifts, hence the giving tradition on this local holiday, not Christmas Eve. This article has a more detailed explanation of the holiday.
Larger cities in the Riviera Maya have events, albeit small, that all focus on the Rosca de Reyes, the Kings Bread that we think is delicious. There is a little story around this bread that you may want to know. Inside each Rosca (it is a round bread shaped like a wreath) is a little baby Jesus. Who ever finds the baby Jesus in their slice will host the party on Candle Day, February 2. This is a fun way to have a rotating fiesta with the host making all the tamales for this festival.
Smaller pueblos are the place to be if you are want to see a spectacular fiesta on Kings Day. Close to Mahahual is a pueblo called El Rey and they have a heck of a celebration in the town and church on January 6th. Pueblos around Felipe Carillo Puerto, Valladolid, and Izamal also put on a great party. It is worth a trip to a small pueblo to experience this religious festival that is filled with presents, food and dancing.
Check out our recipe for Rosca de Reyes . This is easy to make if you are not in the Riviera Maya enjoying locally baked bread. If you are on the coast during this holiday, this sweet bread is a must have treat. If you actually get the Baby Jesus, then I guess you will have to come back again to host your Candle Day celebration.