We’ve been back here exactly three days only to learn: (1) it’s still Christmas in Mexico, and (2) amazing but true, it’s time for another holiday.
As a marketer, I have to ask myself, “What the hell is wrong with Hallmark???” If they’re losing money it’s their own fault for not engaging Hispanics. I have never so many holidays celebrated with so much frequency or reverence in my life!!
But, I digress.
January 6th is Three Kings Day in Mexico. While December 25th, is technically the first day of Christmas, January 6th is actually the 12th day of Christmas. This day celebrates the day that the three wise men arrived and saw Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the manger.
As the story goes, Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, the three wise men came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and mirth. They made the long journey to pay homage to the new King. In many Mexican families ‘El Dia de Reyes’ is the day presents are distributed, as an homage to the biblical story.
I found out it was ‘El Dia de Reyes’ (Three Kings Day), from the most unlikely of places: Costco.
After returning from the States, we had no food. I decided it would be easiest to go to Costco and stock up on essentials. It was there that I saw towering displays of champagne and a bakery section overrun with large boxes of a cake called ‘Rosca de Reyes’ (King’s Cake).
I later visited Superama (Wal-Mart) where photo taking is discouraged. I snapped this pic before the store associate got snappy (as an aside I am going to write their PR people and ask if they will give me a press pass for in store use. Fingers crossed):
The cake reminded me of the Mardi Gras treat by the same name. Similarly, it is round, sweet and holds a special surprise: baked inside the cake is a small plastic figurine representing baby Jesus. “Rosca” means wreath and “reyes” means kings. The bread is shaped in the form of a wreath and has candied fruit on top, and a figurine of a baby Jesus baked inside.
Apparently on Sunday, families hold large gatherings and serve Rosca de Reyes cake and hot chocolate. Once the cake is sliced, the person who finds plastic baby Jesus is obligated make tamales and host the party for the last Christmas celebration: ‘Dia de la Candelaria’ (Candlemas Day) which occurs on February 2nd.
While Santa and his commercialism (and snow show) have been incorporated into the Mexican Christmas celebration, Mexicans still value their traditions and culture and celebrate Three Kings Day with the same passion my family celebrates Christmas.
On January 5th, children wait for the three travelers. According to Manuela, children are encouraged to write a letter providing a detailed feedback of their behavior and their opportunity areas for the coming year. With that kind of rigor who needs Santa? Good children tell the wise men what they’d like by writing letters and placing them in their shoes on January 5th. Some families also leave water out for the wise men’s thirsty camels.
It seemed like a lot of presents to me, so I checked with Manuela. In her family kids get presents of clothing on Christmas and toys on ‘El Dia de Reyes’ .
This afternoon, as we watched the news, we saw that Televisa was reporting live from the post office in the Zocalo. Postal officials were encouraging kids to ‘send’ letters to the three wise men. After one little girl dropped her letter in the box, the news reporter asked her, “what are you resolving to be better at next year?” Without missing a beat the little girl beamed, “I’ll try to use the Internet less.”
As if I needed confirmation that the celebration was not over, I received a promotional text on my Mexican cell phone today. By texting a certain number, kids can call and hear a pre-recorded message from one of the three wise men. They can leave a message with the list of toys they’d like as well.
When in Rome.
Imagine my surprise when I saw that crosswalk had been altered to incorporate tres Reyes!–pedestrians with crowns lined the crosswalk!!