The Origin of the Rosca de Reyes

Magally Vite

Origen de la Rosca de Reyes

With religious origins, the Rosca de Reyes is a traditional Mexican bread in the form of a ring, representing the Wise Men's search for the King of the Jews. It is believed that Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar, the Three Kings from the East, traveled to Jerusalem following a star. On meeting with King Herod, they asked him where the new King had been born. King Herod, frightened by these words, asked the wise men to search for the child and bring word once they had found him, so that he may also go and worship the new king. Because Herod was afraid that the child might threaten his throne, he ordered the killing of every single baby under the age of two years old. The day when the wise men found the Baby Jesus is known as Epiphany, which is precisely the event represented by the Rosca de Reyes.

The Origin of la Rosca de ReyesThe dried and candied fruits that adorn the bread symbolize the crowns of the Kings, while the traditional figurines placed inside the bread represent Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt to escape from Herod's attempts to kill their baby.The tradition of eating Rosca de Reyes actually started in France, in the 14th century. The way it was eaten was almost a ritual in itself. A slice of bread was first given to a poor person or stranger, then the next slices were intended for those serving in the King's army, and the rest of the bread was distributed among the other guests. This tradition soon expanded to other countries in Europe and later to Latin America.

The Origin of the Rosca de ReyesNowadays, in France, the tradition involves the Rosca de Reyes being placed on a table, under which a child sits or they are blindfolded, so that when the bread is divided they are asked "Who shall receive this share?" and the child names someone. One lucky recipient will find the trinket, normally a bean although sometimes even a coin. The person who finds it is named "King" for the day.

In Mexico, the tradition of sharing the bread is slightly different, as little plastic babies are placed inside it to symbolize the baby Jesus. Guests then randomly take a share of the bread, and whoever finds the figurine automatically becomes his godparent. Then he or she has to make a party with tamales and atole on the following February 2.

The Origin of la Rosca de ReyesGodparents usually dress up a statue of Jesus using traditional costumes. Sometimes they dress him as Saint Francis of Assisi or the Holy Child of Atocha and other typical depictions of Jesus.February 2 is a very important day, when many Christians celebrate the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. This feast also honors Our Lady of Candelaria, a depiction of the Virgin Mary, and includes the blessing of water and candles. Far more than a quaint tradition, the Rosca de Reyes can help believers remember that God can turn darkness and bitterness into light and sweetness!