Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Celebrating Three Kings Day with Rosca de Reyes from El Paisa

Christmas has been over for a while I understand, but this blog is not known for its up-to-dateness, and given that the Christmas holiday starts so long (so, very, very long) before the actual day, I think I am allowed some leeway in getting around to writing about it. So bear with me if you care to reminisce on this Christmas past. I have mixed feelings about the day, for no matter how much I love kicking back with my family on Christmas, it's hard to get away from the chaotic spree of corporate-driven consumerism that shapes our holiday world from sometime after Halloween all the way through the end of the year. And then imagine you are one of the forgotten folks that don't even celebrate the day: it must be either extremely amusing or endlessly frustrating to look in on our imposing madness.

I did have a pleasant Christmas as I usually do, but my twins are only two, and I hope the day doesn't come when one of them (or both of them, that is always worse) ends up in a tantrum on the floor because of a present he didn't happen to get. I know much of this will probably have to do with how good a job I do raising them (which is why I am even more worried), but it's hard to deny the expectations that our Christmas culture gives to kids. That is why, I am all about Three Kings Day, and have been making the lobby in my house to make it even more exciting than Christmas.

Three Kings Day is January 6, and is called so because it was the day Jesus was supposedly visited by the three magi (don't worry, I too forget that our modern Christmas holiday has anything to do with a story about a man born 2000 years ago that preached a life of poverty and sacrifice). It is also called the Epiphany--or was that the name of the South Park episode where Jesus and Santa finally made peace? I can't remember.

Anyway, there is a tradition of leaving one's shoes out and waking up to find them filled and/ or surrounded by presents, left by the three kings. No trees, no lights, or lawn reindeer needed--just an old pair of your clodhoppers. My wife celebrated in this way, in leiu of Christmas, for much of her youth, or that is, until the great white Santa invaded Mexico as well. My dad, too, celebrated this way in the Philippines. It's still gift giving I realize, but without nearly as many expectations. It's just a few old dudes on horses after all--not the wizard-like CEO of the world's biggest sweatshop.

That was my long and preachy way to get at this: every Three Kings day in Mexico revolves around a special cake, or rosca, a large ring of pan dulce adorned with gummy worm-type candy and loads of sugar. In it are stuffed any number of little plastic baby Jesuses. Tradition goes that whoever cuts into the cake and gets a plastic Jesus brings the tamales to the next holy party on February 2nd.


We got our Rosca from the still-not-burned-down-again El Paisa bakery on East Colfax--which has since its fortunate resurrection once again become my go-to panaderia. The rosca was large though we picked out the medium, and we threw down on this surgary Jesus-loaf in a very non-Christ-like gluttonous manner. It was great. I recommend picking up on this tradition as well, if for no other reason but to enjoy your own rosca.



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