Three Kings Day ( Día de los Reyes ) is always celebrated on Jan. 6. It is often viewed as the last day of the Christmas season (the end of the 12 days of Christmas). Also known as the Epiphany, Three Kings Day ( Día de los Reyes ) is a Christian celebration that commemorates the Biblical story of the three kings who followed the star of Bethlehem to bring gifts to the Christ child. According to the Biblical story, the Three Kings – named Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar – presented the Baby Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
In the U.S. and other countries, small children look forward to Santa Claus, and they are very excited for this day. But, in Mexico small children look forward to Dia de Los Santos Reyes, which is kind of similar to Santa Claus day but different in a way. Los Santos Reyes looks very different compared to Santa Claus.
This religious holiday is widely celebrated in the Hispanic community, especially by Mexican-Americans. In the United States, Three Kings Day is popular on the East Coast, particularly in New York and Florida, and in other areas with large Hispanic populations. The U.S. is the fifth-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world with an estimated 35.3 million Hispanic people. Mexican-Americans account for the largest segment of the U.S. Hispanic population with 63 percent.
Traditionally in Mexico, Three Kings Day was the gift-giving time, rather than Christmas Day. Just as it is common for children to leave cookies for Santa in the U.S. and other countries, in some regions of Mexico, it was customary for children to leave their shoes out on the night of Jan. 5, often filling them with hay for the camels, in hopes that the Three Kings would be generous.
Today, many Mexican-American families concentrate their gift-giving around the Christmas holiday, but some still give gifts for both Christmas and Three Kings Day. It is common for Mexican children to awake on Jan. 6 to find the straw gone and their shoes filled with toys and gifts. placed there by the parents as a reward for the children being good during the previous year. If the children are bad their presents value will suffer, because the parents will not spend as much on their children to teach the value of being good.
A popular tradition practiced on Three Kings Day is serving the Rosca de Reyes – a crown-shaped sweet bread decorated with candied fruits to resemble jewels. Before baking, one or more tiny figures of babies – to symbolize the Baby Jesus – are hidden in the dough. Serving the Rosca de Reyes is a festive occasion, and groups of people, such as families or work groups, gather to partake in the sweet bread. Each person cuts his or her own slice, and as tradition goes, whoever gets a piece containing a baby is obliged to host another party on or before Feb. 2. This date is called El Día de la Candelaria (or Candlemas), and this traditional Christian celebration, also known as the Presentation of the Christ Child, marks the official end of Mexico’s Christmas season.