Bread of the Three Kings (Los Tres Reyes Magos)

Traditional Rosca de Reyes (King’s Wreath).

     Epiphany Sunday, or Three Kings Day, is a tradition not only in the Catholic Church but also in many Hispanic households. The holiday celebrates the visit to baby Jesus that three wise men complete by following a star across the desert for 12 days. People often refer to this time as ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. The three wise men, or the Magi, were known as Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar; they represent Europe, Arabia, and Africa. Each year on January 6, children in Latin America and Spain anxiously await the arrival of los Reyes Magos (the three kings) and the gifts they bring, just like kids await the arrival of Santa Claus and his gifts. To celebrate, families buy a Rosca de Reyes (or ‘King’s Wreath’), which is a sweetbread topped with candied fruit. Baked inside of the wreath is a figurine of a baby, meant to represent baby Jesus. Traditionally, when the Rosca is cut during the celebration, whoever gets the piece with the figurine in it is to host and pay for the next party on February 2 to celebrate Candlemas Day. There is important symbolism behind each element of the Rosca. The shape of the bread itself is to reflect that of a crown, as in the crown of King Herod, from whom Mary and Joseph were trying to hide baby Jesus from. The dried fruit topping the bread signifies the jewels adorning the crown. The figurine baked into the bread represents Jesus in hiding from Herod, who was slaughtering infants in search of Jesus. Symbolically, whoever finds Jesus in the Rosca is his godparent, which is why they must pay for the next party celebrating Candlemas. Candlemas celebrates when Jesus is taken to the temple to be blessed. Behind the tradition of the Rosca de Reyes that families follow year after year, there is a deeper meaning to it all, enriching the tradition even more.

Rosca Picture- ProtoplasmaKid, 6 January, 2014
Three Wise Men- Leopold Kupelwieser, 11 July 2014

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