Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Happy Día de los Reyes Magos

A colorful Three Kings-themed box for a Rosca de Reyes, January 2009
A colorful Three Kings-themed box for a Rosca de Reyes, January 2009
Photo by garlandcannon/Flickr (Creative Commons)

I wondered why the date on the news stories I was reviewing this morning stood out: Jan 6. And then I was reminded that today is Three Kings Day, otherwise known as the Christian holiday of Epiphany, which is celebrated in the Hispanic world as "El Dia de los Reyes Magos."

Which means, of course, that the tradition is widely celebrated in L.A. Latin bakeries around town have been churning out Rosca de Reyes, a ring-like cake (yummy) with a toy baby Jesus baked into it (hard on the teeth) by the truckload.

It's been a quite while since my family officially celebrated Reyes, the last of the twelve days of Christmas and, per Christian tradition, the day on which the Three Kings are supposed to have arrived in Bethlehem at the scene of the Nativity with gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh.

Traditionally in Latin America and Spain, gifts are exchanged on Reyes, though here in Los Yunaites, whatever gift-giving takes place is secondary to what occurs on Christmas. I recall the explanation that my parents gave me when I was a kid, in the first couple of years after we moved here, as to why the goodies were now being dropped off a couple of weeks early by a chubby guy in a red suit. It went something like this: It's a big world, and the Reyes Magos can only cover so much ground, so here, the gifts are delivered by Santi Clos.

My Christmas tree is long gone, but the tree is still up at my folks' house, as it is in many Latino immigrant households around the country.

Feliz Día de Reyes. I'll be checking the local bakeries to see if there are any roscas left.