Just like that January has come and gone. It seems like the older you get the faster time goes by, but things have so much more meaning to them as you start realizing how precious time is. I’m certain that I had barely blinked and suddenly February was here.
In the Mexican culture Catholic tradition knows this day as “Dia de La Calendaria” which translates as “Day of the Candles or Candle Mass”. This day falls 40 days after Christmas day and is celebrated by Catholics as the “Feast of Purification” or as the “Presentation of Christ at the Temple”. According to Jewish law it was customary for a baby to be brought to the temple after that period of time had passed. So Jesus would have been taken to the temple on February 2nd. This is a lengthy tradition and starts on January 6th which is celebrated as “El Dia de Los Reyes” which translates as “the Three King’s day”. This day is widely celebrated in Spain and Latin America and for many U.S. Latin Americans, it is still a venerated tradition. “Three King’s day” is just as symbolic as Christmas as it commemorates the visit the three kings made to baby Jesus. This is a beautiful tradition but between you and me my culture likes to have long parties that never seem to end…lol.
One of my fondest memories was as a little girl age 5. I remember getting ready for bed the night before “Three King’s day”. My aunts and cousins would all come over to spend the night at my grandmother’s house. We would make a list of the gifts that we would like for the Three Kings to bring to us. (Did I mention that we get another round of gifts on this day besides the ones on Christmas?) Back to the story, we would then go outside and leave our shoes outside the door along with some grass and water for the camels. (I have a smile from ear to ear after reading that last line. Well, that’s the story that was told to us as children. Yes, I’m telling my children the same story but kids these days ask a lot questions and if you don’t give them a convincing answer they just google it.) So, the Three Kings traveled on camels and if we were good they would stop for a quick rest. They would let their camels drink the water and eat the grass we left for them. In return they would leave us gifts and so the following morning we would wake up to our most desired gifts underneath our Christmas tree. We would also find new pairs of socks, little hair clips and gold chocolate coins in baggies inside our shoes. It really was like celebrating Christmas twice.
I remember that whole day being very special. As we waited for more family to arrive at our home my Grandmother would be making hot chocolate. She would already have the most delicious tamales and pozole ready for everyone to enjoy. Those delectable aromas filled the air and I remember the mouthwatering food as it warmed our little tummies, especially since it was cold out. Our dessert was very special. (The Rosca) the oval shaped king cake. This cake was beautifully adorned and I loved the excitement everyone would have once we were ready to eat the Rosca. The tradition to this mini feast of king cake is that there is a little plastic baby that represents baby Jesus. The baby Jesus figurine reminds us of the flight of the holy family, fleeing from king Herods Massacre of the Innocents.
One person gets to hide the baby or sometimes babies in the cake and when its time to eat, everyone has to cut their own slice. Whoever finds the baby Jesus figurine is blessed and has to take the figurine to the nearest church on February 2nd. They are also responsible for hosting a dinner and providing tamales and atole (a type of drink made from flour and maiz) for the guests on that day. If more than one person gets the baby they may plan the party together.
We have kept up with this special family tradition and it continues to bring back beautiful memories as we look forward to making more of them each year that passes.