Feliz Dia de los Reyes Magos!

by Sarah on January 6, 2011 · 6 comments

One of the my favorite things about being a teacher is that I often get to learn just as much (if not more) from the kids I teach than they learn from me. Sometimes it is loftier lesson about life and the way we should treat people and ourselves, or the way we should look at the world. But sometimes, it’s just a really cool piece of information.

Today, one of my 5th graders came into group and said, “Feliz Dia de los Reyes Magos, Ms. Pember!” and of course, I had to ask him to repeat it (and take it a little slower for me). I then managed to put together the “happy day” and “kings” and immediately remembered that today was a celebration in the Christian community of the Three Kings [or Wise Men]’s arrival at Bethlehem. (Also known as the first day of Epiphany…but Christmas was the first time I’ve been to church in at least six months, so I’m not about to try and educate you on any of this religiosity.)

What I didn’t know was what a big deal it was in the Mexican community.You’ve heard of the Mardi Gras King Cake I’m sure. [I’ve even made one before!]…and most likely the tradition of putting a baby in the cake, whereby whoever gets the piece with the ‘token’ gets to be “king” (or “queen”) for the day. In New Orleans (or wherever else crazy co-eds* want to celebrate Mardi Gras buy flashing passersby for beads), King Cakes are eaten from January 6th until “Fat Tuesday” (the actual Mardi Gras). Whoever gets the baby on Mard Gras has to buy the first King Cake the following year.

*Or you know…nice church folk. My mom organized our church Mardi Gras party for years…but you know what they say about Episcopalians….[insert any witty comment about drinking and religion here]


Guess what? The Cajuns and Creoles down in N’awlins totally stole (although they say “borrowed”) this tradition from Latino and Mexican culture. Mexican communities have their own “cake of kings”: Rosca de Reyes.In the days leading up to La Dia de Los Reyes Magos, kids write letters to the three wise men for presents (as opposed to Santa Claus), and then, on the morning of January 6th, they receive gifts! [The haul wasn’t too good this year for most of my kids, but one got a new basketball and another took in $20. :)] To commemorate the day, that evening relatives gather to cut into La Rosca de Reyes.


Unlike the “king for a day” treat of finding the baby inside the glitter-fied King Cake, however, the person who finds the baby in La Rosca de Reyes has to host the next big family/community fiesta on the night of February 2nd.
Or, as my kids described it, “whoever gets the baby has to make all the tamales.”*

*An addendum to this came from another student who said, “My mom hates it when she gets the baby because then she has to host a party and feed everybody. It’s way too much work.”

Maybe it’s just an excuse to get together with family. Maybe it’s just an excuse to eat cake. Maybe it’s just an excuse to keep up your Christmas lights until February 2nd.

Either way, I think it is a pretty cool tradition. [And anything that excites my kids makes me happy.]

I don’t have a Rosca de Reyes for you…but guess what?

You got the baby anyway.

I’ll be eagerly anticipating my tamales come February 2nd.
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Maria @ Oh Healthy Day January 6, 2011 at 7:51 pm

I learn something new from this blog everyday.

p.s. that baby creeps me out. Is that not nice?

Tricia @ Saving room for dessert January 6, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Always interesting and informative! Haha from Maria on the P.S. The baby is creepy. Also, sorry, one more thing. You asked so I'll insert a comment about drinking and religion here … do you know the difference between Episcopalians and Baptists? Episcopalians speak to each other in the liquor store. Ha ha – have a great weekend!

Leila January 7, 2011 at 12:42 am

That baby is totally creepy. I've never heard of such a cake.

Jacqui January 7, 2011 at 10:36 am

So cute. Love traditions from other cultures!

Nancy and Vijay January 7, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Really nice story. You must learn tons of things from the kids (maybe somethings you wished you hadn't) I can remember these celebrations in Arizona and how much fun it was! Thank you :)

Missy January 8, 2011 at 10:00 pm

I was subbing in Austin and had this same lesson. It was an ordinary day for me, but wait! What were ll these little girls doing in similar dresses and what's with this 10:00 assembly?
Sadly I was subbing a bilingual class and "Yo hablo espanol pero muy pequeno y no muy rapido" so I never got the full lesson from the kids.

I still…after all my time in Austin have yet to have a tamale.



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