Every January 6, the tables of Mexican families are crowned with the traditional Rosca de Reyes, the delicious festive bread that frames the celebration of the Epiphany or the Day of Kings, one of the most important celebrations in the context of Christmas traditions in Mexico , but have you ever wondered what the meaning of the Rosca de Reyes is and how it came to our table? In this review, we give you some information that you might not know about this sweet bread that, accompanied by a good hot chocolate, delights all Mexicans.
Background of the Rosca de Reyes
Contrary to what one would think, the background of this thread goes back to the third century, in times of the ancient Roman Empire, and its elaboration was associated with the celebration of Saturnalia, as the parties were known in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture and harvest.
Saturnalia began on December 24 and it broke many social schemes of Roman daily life, for example, differences between slaves and masters were annulled, all public institutions were closed, and any act of violence was prohibited, including wars and executions of prisoners; It was as if the Roman Empire became for a few days the epicenter of joy and well-being.
In these festivities, the Romans used to give gifts and offer splendid banquets in which the distribution of round bread prepared with figs, dates, and honey, which are considered the first known antecedent of the Rosca de Reyes.
Cultural adaptation of the Rosca de Reyes and its arrival in Mexico
The preparation of the thread arrived in the twelfth century to the current Spanish region of Navarra, where it used to be prepared with a hidden bean, beginning the tradition of naming “King of the Faba” who will find the bean inside the bread.
It only took a century for the thread to finally become Christian in France, where it began to associate with the celebration of the Epiphany, that is, the adoration of the three Magi to the Child God, although the custom of hiding a bean was maintained inside the roscón.
Later, in the 16th century, as a product of the Spanish colonization, this tradition was imported to Mexico by the Spanish friars who made it part of the evangelization process itself in the indigenous communities.
The symbolism of the Rosca de Reyes
The religious symbolism of the Rosca is found in its decorative elements and its form. In the case of the former, both the sprinkled sugar and the colorful crystallized fruits that are placed on the thread, symbolize the jewels that the three Wise Men wore in their crowns when they went to the adoration of the Child God.
On the other hand, the tradition of putting the figure of a child inside the thread represents how Mary and Joseph hid Jesus to save him from the slaughter of children ordered by Herod. Finally, the circular form of bread is a sign of infinite love for God.
“Mexicanization” of the Rosca
Upon arriving in Mexico, the recipe for Rosca de Reyes was enriched with local ingredients such as action and fruit tie, both typical sweets born in conventual kitchens. The Rosca was also associated with other festivities within the religious calendar such as February 2, Candelaria Day, day in which it is a tradition that whoever has found the “doll” inside the thread, must wear a ceramic figure representative of the Child God to take him to bless in the church. After this ceremony, who took care of the Child God offers a treat with tamales and atole to his guests.